Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bye, Bye Bungalow Summer

My heart is going to break.

It is 12:03 am and I am sitting on the screened porch of The Love Shack, listening to the crickets chirp in time with the steady breathing of 12-year-old Little Babe and HOBB (Husband of Bungalow Babe), suitcases standing like a mini Stonehenge on the floor of my bungalow.

While visiting news sites and answering e-mail, Labor Day quietly passed away.

That exquisite creature -- Summer 2007 -- has officially departed.

It is Back-to-School, nearly Rosh Hashanah, The Party's Over.

And in six hours, HOBB and I have vowed to return to our packing marathon, planning to be on the road by 10 am so that we can salvage the majority of the work day in Manhattan and help Big Babe as he prepares to leave, on Wednesday, for a half-year in Berlin, get Little Babe ready for life as a seventh grader, which commences on Thursday.

The sane thing, of course, would have been to leave yesterday or today (like most of the inhabitants of our summer community) but neither of us had the ability to wrench ourselves away, craving a day filled-to-bursting with our country adventures, craving one more night in the too-small bed of The Love Shack, craving one more morning in this little kuchalein by the edge of the woods, decorated now with the kitsch and memorabilia of innumerable summers.

And so, we orchestrated a memorable farewell to summer. We paid homage to the goddess of consumerism and spent a frenetic hour at Woodbury Commons buying underwear and school clothes while waiting for Big Babe's bus to arrive from New York. Dropping Little Babe and HOBB back at the bungalow, Big Babe and I headed down to Sterling Forest to relive a sacred rite from his childhood -- the annual visit to the NY State Renaissance Festival.

I am especially pleased to report that after a hiatus of many a year, the fair seemed to me -- and Big Babe -- virtually unchanged. In a good way. We came craving a connection with the sweet memories of our shared past and were not disappointed. Nearly everything was as we remembered it: the shoppe with the wooden swords and shields; the alley of tarot readers and soothsayers; the spontaneous folk-singing duos; the abridged Shakespearean performances; the face-painting and hair-braiding; the sparkly magic wands and crystals; the jousting contests; the bawdy cammaraderie of the workers; the archery game; the hordes of fair-goers dressed as wizards and ladies and lords and dragons and fairies and ninjas and vampires and other inexplicable characters.

We waited on a too-long line for underwhelming Middle Eastern salads and drank water and hard cider and searched for bathrooms and rolled our eyes at the abundant display of pushed up bosoms and peculiar garb. Crossing over the kissing bridge, Big Babe spontaneously gave me a peck on the cheek and I felt a tug backward, recalling the tiny, wide-eyed child with blond curls clutching his wooden sword and shield with proprietary joy, now seeing the graceful young man with a straight dark locks wielding a professional camera, snapping images of the day, capturing scenes straight out of his youth.

It was so perfect that I could barely speak. I felt nearly selfish for engineering this day's journey to provide me with tangible memories to hold close while my eldest child is gone in Europe.

Later in the afternoon, after we returned to Rosmarin, I stood on the shores of Walton Lake with HOBB, watching the sun glint off the water, slipping lower and lower over the trees. "It's so beautiful," I whispered, afraid of the floodgate of feelings about to overwhelm me. A million memories from the thirteen years that we have come to this summer paradise danced around me. I tried to recall the glorious return to the lake this past May, the joyous reunion with summer friends, the walks with my children on the shore, our Scrabble games, conversations on blankets, songs in the water, kayak rides, snacks and meals on picnic tables, the amusement of watching Alfie the Pomeranian race madly through the grass, owning the moment, owning the world.

"The summer's over," moaned our New York neighbor Brian one month ago, as we bumped into each other dog-walking outside our building. It was early August and the words shattered like a broken window pane around my ears.

"No!" I protested, loudly, hauling Alfie into the apartment. I had just come back from a week-long trip to St. Louis for a client's convention and felt gypped of The Love Shack, bereft of NYC. I was back and I still had a solid month left of summer. No way was it over. There were still reams of days to dance through.

Each day this summer was its own world. Each morning had its own flavor. Each evening its own magic. We were here at the Love Shack, but also elsewhere-- there were trips to St. Louis and Hartford and Maryland and the Hamptons and upstate and, of course, the Urban Bungalow back in Manhattan.

There were movies and day trips and parties and conversations and books and magazines and weekend guests and visits from my sister from Israel and my nephew and a Shabbat with my parents and hot-button issues and fights and day camp for Little Babe and returning from Israel and then leaving for college for Middle Babe, our only daughter.

With Middle Babe now completing her second week at college in Maryland, I hold dear the memories of her visits to the Love Shack, wish to wear my recollections like a locket against my heart.

Artifacts from my past wink to me from the combination kitchen/living room of my tiny bungalow. My Grandma Dorothy's challah plate, now hanging on our wall. An oil painting by my mother. Caricatures of my three children, drawn by an artist at my Israeli nephew's Jerusalem bar mitzvah, two years ago. Camp pictures stuck in drawers. The Happy 4th of July streamer from two years ago. The 2007 schedule from Rosmarin's Day Camp, still affixed to the side of our fridge by magnet.

For lo, the beautiful summer is past.

Sadness mingles with gratitude, for it was as full and memorable as I could wish.

My cup and my heart runneth over.

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