Here we are, mid-July, moving into the backside of summer. It’s been bright and sunny, though still quite chilly. I hear the furnace come on as I write this morning. Not quite one month past the summer solstice, sunsets are already earlier and the dawn’s light arrives a bit later. While we’re not really talking aloud about it, our time together with the California family, is moving towards its inevitable end. We’re starting to tick off the list of things on our to-do lists. Valerie is going into the office, which Mark rented during his short stint here, for a day of zoom meetings, then turning in the keys. Tomorrow, Don and I and the boys are spending the day in Missoula, Cormac’s dream town. He’s not been there before, but has a list of Zillow homes for sale he wants to drive by, as well as the various schools he’s been researching. In his nearly 13-year old mind, all the woes of living in the time of Covid-19 will be gone, if only he lived in Missoula, where he imagines wide open spaces for playing with friends, and schools that somehow have escaped the virus, and riding his bike anywhere, just feeling free. Eamon said last night that there has not been a single day in which Cormac didn’t mention Missoula. It’s a lovely drive along the 30 mile long shoreline of Flathead Lake, through broad green valleys, and the towering peaks of the Mission Mountains, still showing their snowpack. Even with summer tourists, it will be wide and open compared to the highways in his Bay Area home. We’ll drive by the schools and the houses for sale, and have a walk along the Clark Fork River trail in the University District, and a picnic lunch. Then we’ll drive home, having checked this off his list.
A few nights ago at dinner, Cormac talked about how he would now be at Mountain Camp, in the northern California mountains, had the pandemic not changed everything. He had gone for the first time last year, and said it was the best time of his entire life. He wistfully described days jam-packed with activities, the fun of living with new friends in a dorm, and the most wonderful food ever. Valerie said that when he returned home and got off the bus, he seemed transformed and was positively glowing. Eamon replied, “He looked like starshine.”
In this time of loss which hovers low over our house, we are blessed to have nine-year old Eamon, who sees starshine. He doesn’t talk about what he’s lost, and spends much of the day reading his books, in bed in the mornings, then the chair in the living room at the French doors after breakfast, into the hammock in the warmth of the afternoons. He makes a daily schedule of when and where he’ll read, broken up by games of badminton, a sailboat ride here and there, watering my geraniums and beach cleanup. Cheerful and chipper in every single moment. I am tearful when I think of the Billy Collins poem, On Turning Ten:
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.