The month of August, for me, brings a wide mix of emotions.
It always has.
As a child, the hot days pulling weeds in the garden were balanced by time at the lake, splashing around at the Hill Top Beach, or fishing from Magabelle’s dock. The stifling nights were often spent camping in large tents in the the backyard, with an assortment of sleeping bags and army cots to accommodate the masses of over-heated children.
The field behind our house offered mysteries and danger, wild berries and lots of hiding places. The willow trees, front yard and back, always offered a nice shade. The privet hedge shielded the back yard play area from the passing cars. We wore as little clothing as possible, and were barefoot except for church-going. I treasure one photograph of a cluster of us little children, squinting into the sun in a mad collection of underpants and shorts. My brother Ted, the only boy in the photo, is the only one with a shirt on!
August was birthdays and birthday parties, family reunions and family vacations. The start of school loomed just around the bend, but even that brought new supplies, a fresh wardrobe and its own level of excitement.
August was the best month of summer…made even more sweet with the knowledge that the season was coming to an end.
Now, as an adult, I still feel the bittersweet mixture of joy and sadness all through the month.
Here on Beaver Island, the cooler nights of August remind us to treasure each summer day. Warm weather and our “Home Coming” celebration bring the crowds. Visitors pour off the ferry boats and planes, or their own motorboats or sailboats. They enjoy the beaches and wander through the shops.
Yet, every week is marked by people leaving. The businesses are forced to rearrange work schedules to make up for employees who go to get settled into dorms or houses, to get registered for classes, to get ready to start another job, or just to get a break before the season has passed them by.
Every joy at seeing loved ones come to visit is juxtaposed with sadness at their departure.
To the many birthdays we’ve always celebrated in August, my family has added a whole collection of memorable dates. Many are happy ones: we have several wedding anniversaries in August. Others note passings: my sister Sheila and both of my parents died in this month. It is almost impossible for a day in August to go by without a memory attached to it.
This year on August 2nd – which is my godson’s birthday but also the day that, two years ago, my sister, Sheila, died unexpectedly – I had a meeting before my regular workday. My granddaughter, Madeline, and I walked the dogs early. We picked raspberries in the evening as we watered the beans and squash. We took our simple dinner upstairs to the studio to watch Jeopardy while we ate. We read two chapters before bed.
The next seven days – which included two birthdays and two wedding anniversaries – were spent in similar fashion.
On August 10th, family and friends came: Robin and Dick first, then Bob, Gary, Brenda, Keith, Amy, Danielle, John, Lillie, Nicole, Jim, Kristen and Chris. Cheryl and Joel arrived the next day.
Sunday, August 11th, was our “Home Coming” Dinner, a much anticipated annual event held at the Holy Cross Hall here on Beaver Island. This year was special, as a series of events had caused the dinner to be cancelled last year. Madeline and I made pies to donate to the dessert table.
We didn’t attend, though.
In our group, Sunday was “Thanksgiving in August.” Brenda cooked turkey and all the trimmings! Because I am never able to get off the island for that holiday, it was wonderful to enjoy that lovely meal surrounded by my family.
August 11th is the birthday of our dear family friend, Mary, who watched all of us grow up.
It is also the anniversary of the day our Mother died, two years ago.
That wasn’t forgotten, through the laughter and chatter and, “pass the gravy down this way, please.” We are happy, though, to build new memories to go along with the other ones.
Tuesday, Madeline left on the ferry boat with my sister, Amy, and her family. I waved them off, then went to work. I felt like I could cry uncontrollably if given half a chance. Yet when I stopped at the house where my sisters were staying, my friend, Bob, greeted me at the door with a big hug, and before I knew it, I was happily surrounded by the love of my family.
And the week went on, joyously.
Yesterday, all remaining family and friends left.
Last night’s dinner was a simple affair.
The evening, without diversion of any kind, seemed to drag on a bit too long.
It was awfully quiet out here on the Fox Lake Road.
I went to bed early.
The sun came up warm and bright this morning, though. It shined through the trees as I walked the dogs, leaving dappled patterns on the path.
Summer is not over yet.
There are still warm days to be savored, memories to be made, sunshine to enjoy.
There is still some August left.