Golden & Glorious
The sun is rising a bit after five in the morning and not setting until after eight o’clock at night and I am wondering how it was the days got so long, and already feeling the dark cloud of the summer solstice and shrinking sunlight hovering over the horizon.
It is cold, far from the record, but cool enough that in an abundance of caution I push the thermostat even lower to ensure the heat does not come on. It is not as “warm” in the yard as it is inside in winter — “warm” being, in my context a very relative term, I do acknowledge — but I have just lived here too long to take the temperature as a sign of Armageddon.
The record, I find from one source, was in 1961, which seems odd, it is a year I remember, the 300th anniversary of the European settlement of the town. Our mothers made us calico dresses, with wide ruffles at the hem and square necks, and bonnets as well, costumes we wore all summer. How could it not be memorable?
Memorial Day had not yet fallen to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and was still observed on May 30. There were morning exercises at Legion Park and that same evening we were all in the grand school production that had been our focus the better part of the year: the Panorama of American Music. It may not have been the biggest event but it certainly took the most time in our young lives.
We rehearsed at school but the final production was, as school events were then, at the Spring House. The dining room was on the west end of the first floor, the lounge today, and there was still a since-removed stage filling the southeast end of the space, left from the days of summer plays.
The music teacher, Gertrude Ball, also taught the three primary grades and the piano was stationed in her room so by the time we “graduated” to elementary school — with no fanfare, it was just down the hall — we knew the patriotic songs, and several verses of those, words that remain familiar if not so much that I can claim to still know them all by heart.
Most of us who were in that 1961 production still recall some part of it, often the boys dressed as fishermen “hauling” an off-stage dory ashore. We girls were so dutiful we stood at the back of the stage, eyes frozen forward. One of my classmates muttered to me under her breath “what’s so funny?” when the room erupted in laughter. We later learned the boys had pulled the leg off the dory/piano, which had seemed a solid anchor during rehearsals. We were standing right there but we knew of the mishap only after the fact.
It was an old, unused upright, not “our” piano, a spinet, which was carted around the way a keyboard would be today, from one side of the school to the other, to the Spring House, or wherever it was needed. It has to be a misplaced memory, I think, then there it is, like Waldo, popping up in old photographs here and there.
I remember the stiff organdy collars the girls had to wear to “fancy up” our simple dresses, but I do not remember it being cold, even in the unheated building, but we were kids and likely would have been oblivious. That could not be the day I got a sunburn on my upper back, the shape of that square neck, so bad I later stood in front of my mother’s long mirror and rubbed the dead skin, fascinated by the flakes of it fluttering to the floor. Still, it would have been two days later than today, and I do remember a more recent May afternoon when the temperature dropped 40 degrees in a few hours, so anything is possible.
It is gray and sunless, today, the wind is blowing, the edge of the ocean tattered, waves I see breaking on the shore all the way from town. It appears only the white beach roses have opened, then I realize while they are more in number, there are pinks there too, but needing bright light to be more visible. The autumn olive behind the house is shedding its flowers, casting them on the wind, pale clusters that break open and fleetingly make me think “snow?!”
When I go out and call the dog there is no response, only the distant sound of geese coming from the big pond behind my house. So I go round and stand on the cover of the old cistern and call and soon see a golden streak following a zig-zag path invisible to me.
Autumn ducks through a hole in the blackberry vines and tears up the lane and I see her feet and her legs wet and dark with mud, as I expect them to be, my dog coming straight from golden retriever heaven. It is the geese I hear protesting her presence but fear that darn Troll may be luring her into mischief as well.
It should be warmer but we have reached the point in the year when I want time to stop, for the grass to stay thick and green with only a wash of tan and purple, seed that will become heavy and bend the stalks in another week or two. Early I think the cool might help keep the lilacs down the lane in place a bit longer but by afternoon they and the tall creamy candles of the horse chestnuts are being battered by the wind that is starting to sound disconcertingly like winter.
The wind, it is always the wind.
There have been days it has felt like May, when the blue flag iris and some volunteer that looks for the world like bluebells under the forsythia were coaxed to flower, there was an afternoon last week when it was unmistakable, golden and glorious and fleeting May.