I often wish life were clearer in its ability to come to a full stop or begin something new with clean parameters. As Anne Lamott often laments, "If I were in charge of the Western World I would..." I would have an ending that declared itself. Period. No dangling bits, no emotions that slop over, no untied ends. A neat package of life. Then, when something new comes into view, have it be definite and crisp as a white sail against the horizon.
But no. Just to remind ourselves of how sloppy God's world is, we get Fall. In bits and pieces. August begins to feel "not-like-summer" but like "the-beginning-of-fall." The leaves on the maple by our deck are turning red in places; Joe Pye Weed is almost over, leaning like drunken revelers; asters send out tentative purple flowers; the warblers migrate, and the hummingbirds are getting ready to leave. Or, as my significant other said this morning, "Hey, bud, where's your suitcase?"
School flyers have already infected and depressed the minds of countless children (not their parents) since the first week in August. Let the shopping commence! Yellow school buses are parked on streets waiting, like some vast bugs ready to devour children.
I confess to a sense of melancholy. I remember my past and those of my "children" (now 25 and 29) as we got ready for school. Who loved to pick up the phone and order glorious clothes from Hannah Anderssen? Not me. Who liked to visit the Lanesboro Mall for guy clothes and perhaps an action toy to soften the blow of school beginning? All of us. I think we picked up a Barbie as well, hopefully the Barbie Veterinarian or Barbie Doctor with a miniscule stethoscope.
I remember Halloween trick-or-treating, getting the kids dressed in their costumes. One year Ben made a marvelous aluminum devil mask, painting it a vivid red. It scared even me. Once Char dressed as an action hero with sword and scabbard. Each fall I picked pumpkins from the garden, set them on the deck railing, and reveled in them until the first frost brought them slumping to the deck.
At 71, I do relish our empty nest and the ability to come and go as we please. But the ending of having "kids" living with us is a sweet/sad thing. I miss them. I miss the warblers. Soon I will mourn the departing hummingbirds until Rick says, "Get over it, honey,
they will come back."
I know Spring will arrive in a laggard sort of way, giving us one blindingly-sunny warm day only to be followed by a late snowstorm that crushes my daffodils. I don't know how we bear it, really. Jonah in the whale had nothing on us.
But then--I remember that our God is one of beginnings and endings. The Bible is full of such stories. I began and so shall end, or as my dearest aunt once said, "Annie, music has to come to an end." But somewhere not too faraway, the music will start up again for another person, another flower, and another hummingbird.