I’m sitting here on my sofa contemplating the passing of summer — school starts tomorrow — and the attendant ratcheting-up of all the cares of ordinary life that come with the end of the holidays. Since the chief result of contemplating all these things is a wretched stomach-ache, I have armed myself with a cup of ginger tea and a cat, and the stack of Hello! magazines that awaited me upon my return. As did… the rain.
I cannot complain, because I have a cleaning lady who left everything totally perfect (OK, the t-shirts folded like the Gap and arranged by color are slightly creepy), and a husband who was more than happy to make chicken soup with my special tender almost-dumpling meatballs, for my recovery. Sofa-bound as I am today, I’ve finished all my Lost Property tasks — rotas, name tags, labels for the boxes — and will go in tomorrow to make sure things are ready for the inevitable onslaught of girls with Lost Stuff.
We have left Red Gate Farm (and all the joys and tensions that exist there!) behind. The gate is closed until Christmas.
I often think of how much I enjoy the circle of friends and family who make up our community at Red Gate Farm and how much MORE I would enjoy it all if I didn’t feel I was in a constant perilous state of having to say goodbye to them all again. It’s not normal for relationships to be so fraught with impending separation. We see our precious neighbors across the road only when they manage to get up from the city for a frantic weekend away from their real lives. There is never enough time to say everything we want to say.
Our darling farmer boy Rollie managed only one afternoon with us. I found it incredibly touching to contemplate this third Rollie in our lives, and mourned the fact that we never got a chance to see him with his dad and his grandfather. “At Christmas,” we say, as we always do, hoping that somehow everything will be complete then. Of course, at Christmas, we’ll say, “Oh, it’ll get done in the summertime.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, in a perverse way, to spend so much time with my nieces that I got sick of them, as so many of my friends get tired of family? That will never happen in this lifetime. Jane will have changed so much by the time I see her in four months. We had one last dinner party under a quarter moon, and I got to hear her confidences. I will never forget our funniest conversation this summer.
Jane: “What’s for dinner, Aunt Kristen?”
Me: “Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread and asparagus.”
Jane: “That menu sounds rather promising.”
We managed to get one lunch at our precious Laurel Diner with Big Rollie and Judy, chattering over all the things that will happen on our property while we are away, knowing that their experienced, benevolent, caretaking eyes will watch it all and keep us posted. We’re having the stone wall repaired!
We swallowed hard at the bill, but it’s been years in the making, damage from snow and rain. We owe it to the house. How exciting it will be come back at Christmas to find it all beautifully restored. “A lifetime warranty,” the Serbian stonemason Tony assured me. “Whose lifetime, yours or mine?” I joked, but he replied seriously, “Way after both of us, honey.“
Even the wildlife has to be abandoned! John’s finches will be very sad when the food runs out.
Jessamy the cat has gone back to Manhattan, after a successful few weeks at camp. I’m surprised there is any screen LEFT in the door after all her concerted efforts to join us on the terrace! How wonderful she is and how unbelievable that any person could simply have thrown her away, as a kitten, to turn up at a shelter and be rescued by Avery.
Perhaps my most lasting memory of the summer is an unexpected one: the fun I have had getting to know Avery again. The pressures of the London school year are not kind to a mother and daughter’s attempts to share anything but dinner. She works so hard, spends so much time physically away from home and mentally in some other sphere, that I had forgotten the complete and total luxury of having her around all the time, to enjoy.
I know it isn’t realistic to expect to have her all to myself as I used to when she was little. So much of the growing-up process is bit negative, I find: children seem to go from being rather burdensome creatures constantly wanting to be washed and fed and taken places (places I never wanted to go, like horse rings and skating rinks) to being independent people you never get to see enough of, and it seems to happen overnight! How unfair, I sometimes think, that the more interesting she gets, the less I get of her. Alas.
But this summer, I discovered that there is another side to the coin. Somewhere along the line, a result of her constant reading and discussing and theorizing (and a wealth of inherited family lore, it has to be said!), she has become the best conversational companion I can imagine. How extraordinary when your child turns out to know so much more than you do on so many, many subjects! As loathsome as I have found the summer obsession with politics to be, watching her hold more than her own in every conversation gives me a great deal of pleasure, and dare I say it… pride. She has become an remarkable young woman — overnight, it would seem. And an amazing photographer, to produce a photo of me that I actually like.
I am hoping to be able to hold that wisdom with me, during this upcoming school year that will end in June with 11 — eleven! — wretched exams. Avery is still in there, more so than ever, and I hope we’ll be able to find each other now and then.
The end of the holiday had come. With one last look at the hydrangea, now in full August blossom, it was time to say goodbye.
Four months. We have four months in London to accomplish a great deal. I have my social-work family to meet up with again, and plenty of lacrosse boots to reunite with their hapless owners. John has the school Christmas Fair to run (single-handedly, it sometimes sounds). Avery and I have made a good start on “The Cookbook,” with my recipes and stories and her photographs, but we have to cook, photograph and eat our way through about 40 more dishes before we’re ready to approach a publisher. We’ll all be the size of houses!
And then we’ll be back at Red Gate Farm at Christmas for another season, another set of adventures. And me with a thicker skin, I like to think, not quite so inclined to think it’s the end of the world to say goodbye.
Print This Post