How To Hold Summer Long
“Have you checked yours yet, Mom?” he asks from downstairs, laughing as I am struck temporarily deaf by the dishwasher’s hums below me and do not reply.
“Oh! I thought you were talking to Dad,” I bumble and grin. “Yes, I walk out each morning and eat the reddest tomatoes!” I exclaim.
“I’ll have more today,” and my delight and glee is evident.
John is searching for his socks, gathering items for his work day, and talking about tomatoes. Golf ball-size red ones, nubby-naveled yellow pear tomatoes, and ruby grape-sized cherry tomatoes mound and glimmer crimson from a plastic bowl in his hands.
We each have portions in the four garden beds where Derby and Early Contender bush beans stand in tight rows, dangling long velcro green beans in the shade of their leaves. Zuchinni leaves furrow in wide elephant ears and orange flowers trumpet new growth beneath. Nasturtiums peel out in pinks, yellows, and corals, while gladiola flowers stretch upwards, knobby buds hinting. Pea pod plants curl in withered browns and creams, announcing summer’s end.
In between the high school class roster, the first grade book-ordering, and an offer to help college boy buy textbooks online, summer glows a dull red. Tangled day-lilies mass and jumble in the flower bed, and the first purple aster opened last night, winking eyes at a single crimson maple leaf in a verdant tree. And the summer can slip away from us so silently.
I brew cold water ice tea in a scuffed Tupperware pitcher this morning, while water boils to pour over Bulgar wheat for a fresh tomato and mint tabbouleh salad. Two kinds of mint herbs teem and wrinkle vibrant flavor from a container pot beside the purple cone-flowers, and how does summer pass so quickly? I snip, wash, and twist the leaves to release oils, and dunk them full into the sweet southern tea.
We’re staying local this vacation week, looking for creative ways to make memories and cherish family moments. Tuesday, we licked salty popcorn off our fingertips in a dark movie matinee, watching our seven year old giggle at yellow cartoon minions. That evening when our eldest got off work, we poured out mini crepes for supper, and then poured all five of us into the car for an ice cream outing.
Twenty minutes away at a legendary St. Paul ice creamery, we sidled and stood on one foot, faces pressed against the cool glass window, trying to decide between salted caramel, maple nut praline, Superman blue, and cotton candy. The creamery’s smallest size still towered high, scoops of ice cream spilling out and over until the employees simply up-ended each cup into a wide brimmed plastic bowl. We sat, sticky-fingered on a sticky pink- and blue-dripped table outside Snelling Avenue as city cars slid by.
“Don’t lick the table!” three of us cried out in slow-motion too late, as my youngest followed his rainbow-colored ice cream to the picnic table top.
By eight-fifteen that night, we were full. Sweetness still in the creases of our lips, on our tongues, and rolling out in satisfied groans from us, we leaned back in the car seats and loosened our seatbelts slightly. Sunshine slanted long and low across the city streets, the whirring highway, and the curving suburban lanes home.
Summer tastes like hot tomatoes, green bean earthiness, and salted caramel ice cream on my lips. August mounts, climbs, and spirals up the numbers, ticking to the end, as hot green days linger. Have you checked yours yet? These days that pass in sun-dripped light.