Autumn is definitely on the way. It comes a bit earlier this far north and in most years would have arrived weeks ago, just after the country fair. We’ve often shivered through Laura’s mid-August birthday, determinedly pointing at the calendar and ignoring (at our peril) Mother Nature.
Some of the leaves are beginning to turn, fuzzy brown and black caterpillars are out in full force, the meadowlarks have made their usual brief return before their eventual departure, the hummingbirds have already buzzed away, and a few geese have been spotted overhead. The nights are cooler — downright cold sometimes — and at least one neighbor has had frost on the pumpkins. The apples are looking ready, very ready, to pick, which means cider pressing time is on the way too.
These are the days when we begin to look forward to afternoons spent indoors, circled around a book of stories; when the kids are more than content to remain in the kitchen at the table after breakfast with a math book instead of racing outside, the screen door banging behind them, in search of frogs or birds or kittens. And I’m happy to spend afternoons in the kitchen, with a vat of bubbling berries or an oven full of pies, lazily looking through the Sears catalogue, in search of a few more pairs of pants that will come down past Laura’s ankles. Back to school shopping isn’t particularly frenzied around here — in fact, it’s more like a treasure hunt than anything else, for new and amazing stationery supplies and longer and warmer clothing, some of which aren’t even new, just new to us (the boys tend to get a fair amount of nifty hand-me-downs from friends, including the fancy t-shirts and sweatshirts with NHL logos I won’t shell out for).
To me That Was Summer by Marci Ridlon (1969) is the perfect end-of-the season poem. We have, at best, only a few more weeks of playing outside all day left. Because the copyright is still in force, I’ve omitted the middle two stanzas. You can find the entire poem in Joanna Cole’s New Treasury of Children’s Poetry: Old Favorites and New Discoveries (1984).
That Was Summer
by Marci Ridlon
Have you ever smelled summer?
Sure you have.
Remember that time
when you were tired of running
or doing nothing much
and you were hot
and you flopped right down on the ground?
Remember how the warm soil smelled
and the grass?
That was summer.
. . .
. . .
If you try very hard
you can remember that time
when you played outside all day
and you came home for dinner
and had to take a bath right away,
It took you a long time to pull
your shirt over your head.
Do you remember smelling the sunshine?
That was summer.
* * *
(Great minds: I see that Literacy Teacher at Mentor Texts & More picked the very same poem. Far from having the urge to pick another poem, I’ll just chalk it up to That Was Summer being the perfect poem for this week in August, whether you’re on the prairies up north or in New York City. Cheers!)