It is years before Seth points out to me that I am a bitch in early August. Tense, snappish, critical, distracted. August is a complicated season in Eagles Mere. The people who rent houses in August seem aggressive during Sports Week, too intent on winning. The weather starts to change. Nights get colder. There are often brief thunderstorms in the late afternoon, bigger storms at night when we lose power and light candles counterpointed by evenings so clear that the meteor showers feel within reach as we lie out on blankets on the tennis court watching the sky, Kerro and Seth helping us make out the constellations. August is tomatoes and blueberries and white corn, a profusion of produce. The summer program ends. Our students and faculty go home. It’s just us. There is some protracted post-ETC melt down. Things wind down earlier now because of pre-season obligations and the college students who run the summer programming for younger kids need to go back to college by the middle of the month. We have the Fireman’s Carnival—a cake wheel and bingo and darts and French fries and pierogis and Mom’s favorite apple dumplings and a wheel where children hope to win un-cuddly animals, stuffed with sawdust. On a good year, I remember to bake for it. On a better year, we win something more delicious than I baked. The float carnival happens—some years, Seth and Atticus build a float. This year, that project enraged the girls, Seth single-mindedly intent on following through on a promise he had made to Atticus. When I was a little girl, August meant a trip to the mall on a rainy day to buy school shoes. In August, I often feel unmoored, in between the memory of the busy days of ETC and the beginning of another school year. I fuss at our children to finish or start their summer reading. I look wistfully at the books I thought I would get read and mourn the writing I did not do. I start a home-improvement project that I will not have time to finish. I watch the birds outside of the glass doors in Mom’s suite. I fill the hummingbird feeders with red juice one more time. I miss my brother and my mother.
Rod died on August 4th leaving this house headed to Philadelphia. I was 14—it was a long time ago. He is frozen at 18 for me, for all of us. Reckless, stupid, young, foolish, impulsive, cocky, a smart ass, who was demi-royalty here in Eagles Mere, at the center of a group of pot-smoking, beer-drinking kids who loved him, just like generations before him and generations that followed. Given time, he would have grown up, taken up golf or continued sailing, married a wife who wore Pappagallo flats and Lily Pulitzer shifts. He would have figured out how to mollify my dad; he would have danced attendance on our mom, who doted on him despite his bad case of adolescence. He would not have divided my life into before and after. In those days, WASPs didn’t go in much for therapy; that had to wait until I was out of college, really until I lost the first baby—on Memorial Day in Eagles Mere—somehow fitting since that loss helped me finally unpack the loss of my brother with wise, smart Joyce, who helped me heal.
Mom died more recently, but one loss begets another, so it seems. August is melancholy, regret on my tongue, betwixt and between summer and school, one version of my family and another.
In the middle of the month is our anniversary. We could only marry in August and having joy punctuate the month has helped me, settled me. Our anniversary is often hastily observed, too often missed almost all together, but it mitigates against loss.
Sometimes, when my husband doesn’t remind me, I forget that August does a number on me, the lake mirroring my moods--pewter, stormy, calm, glassy--quicksilver feelings moving through me like the storms that move across the lake. They pass. The air clears.
If we eat dinner in time, we can make it to High Knob to watch the sunset. Sunsets in August are particularly fine.