Say what you will about the calendar (with its celestial reminder that there is an order to our days), something more spirited is at play when one season slips into the next. By the time the summer solstice arrives, Memorial Day has already jumpstarted the season. Then comes the build-up to July 4th, the hot dogs and hamburgers, Roman candles and firecrackers, the expectation that the day before and the day after are a given part of the celebration equation. Only once in a blue moon (at least that’s how it feels), expectation gives way to exception: a midweek fizzle of a 4th.
July 5th, a day neither here nor there (an afterthought in years when the calendar does not bow to our demands), yet evocative enough for someone to use as the title of a play. So often it’s the grace note that gives us pause. Space to reflect. I spent yesterday with friends (and friends of theirs, now mine) at their house overlooking a lake. This is the way I’ve celebrated the 4th of July for years now. Early on, our (young) children were part of the picture. Grown and mostly dispersed now, they leave us to our own grown-up devices. Which are not all that grown-up at all.
And why should they be? Summertime bears the imprint of free time. School’s out, playtime’s in, whatever that means to any one of us. No sooner does summer arrive and I picture myself walking home from the library, a pile of books in my arms. Summer reading meant you could borrow more books, for a longer time. When my family first moved to the middle-income housing project that defined a neighborhood on the cusp of change, there was no library. But there was the Bookmobile, arriving on schedule once a week. The back entrance was for returning books. I walked up the steps, deposited the books I’d read, spent some time perusing the shelves. Walked out the front of the library on wheels, filled with the anticipation of where the books I’d chosen would take me.
It doesn’t take much to imagine my thrill when a ‘real,’ permanent library was built. More books. More choices. Any one of them in my lap as I sat on my favorite bench, in the shade of a tree overlooking a patch of grass. Reading. In the height of summer.
Recent celestial events had me hankering to reread Shirley Hazzard’s novel, The Transit of Venus. I went scurrying to my shelves, the book cover as clear in my mind as if I’d read it yesterday. Except that it wasn’t yesterday, it was years ago, nowhere to be found now, clearly gone the way of paperbacks that can survive being boxed in an attic only for so long. Not a problem. It’s summertime. What better joy to give myself than heading over to my local library, picking up a copy bound in a way meant to last. Meant to be shared. Meant to remind me of days sitting on a bench in the shade of a tree overlooking a patch of grass.