Whew, it’s hot! Our tennis games are sweaty affairs where we quit when we’ve run out of cold water to drink. The Grumpy Old Men at the tennis court outdo themselves with querulous complaint. “Ira, what in the world is wrong with you? That shot was so LAWNG.” “Sheldon, when I say SERVE, I mean over the g*****d net! Are you blind?” “That was certainly not 30 15, that was 30 30.” Central casting. But hey: they’re out there, arguing their way through yet another match.
The air hangs heavy over Red Gate Farm, coaxing the blossoms from the hydrangea tree, finally. Every July we wring our hands, saying, “It’s never THIS late before they bloom! What’s wrong?” and then in August, right on cue, they bloom.
Shots ring out across the back meadow as Tricia pursues the coyotes (she plans on a coat when she gets nine of them, and I just hope she succeeds before they eat up any more of the bunnies running around. She’s more worried about her baby son in his backyard pool). Not to mention these little guys who people our terrace. We feed them shamelessly, watching them carry their booty to their secret homes.
All the usual suspects are accounted for this summer, in our little community, with the beloved addition of Mike and Lauren’s new baby, Abigail. She can, as the late, great novelist Laurie Colwin said, be judged by adult standards of beauty.
These are the sort of people who, two months before the birth of their first child, travel out of state to adopt a rescue dog to shower love on. Noel seems to realize that she has fallen into the pot of jam, with her new family.
Mike will always hold a special place in our hearts because he fell in love with and adopted Avery’s foster kitten Jessica, several summers ago. He is, predictably, an amazing dad.
It was heartwarming to visit them at home several days later, and to see Jessica reunited with her rescuer, both of them quite grown up now.
Of course we’ve been tooling around in Quincy, the 1967 Land Rover who is John’s pride and joy. He takes us to the ice cream stand down our country road, the most American place you can ever imagine.
Quincy is showing his age, however. One sultry afternoon, John and I dropped Avery and Rosemary off at our beloved local library, saying we’d be “right back.” We stopped at the car repair place to schedule a checkup for Quincy and went to the grocery store for lobsters, emerging to find that Quincy had had enough and would not start. HOW I wish I had had my camera that afternoon, because two rather alarmingly tatooed and slightly dicey looking men emerged from a car with Massachusetts plates and approached us. “Hey, what a cool ride. Havin’ trouble, are ya?”
Whereupon they put their backs into the awesome job of pushing Quincy across the parking lot trying to surprise him into starting. They produced jumper cables. No luck. “No way this baby’s staaatin’,” averred one guy (with skulls all up and down his arms and a heart surrounding the words “Marissa” and “Konnylynn”). “Starter’s toast.” We shook hands. “Our good deed for the day, anyway,” they smiled and drove away. I can’t believe we didn’t think to give them a twenty. It took AAA to start the car.
July wouldn’t be complete without a visit from our local Great Blue Heron, who flies across from Anne’s pond across the road to land on our barn roof.
From the roof, after surveying all his domain, he sails into our pond, to eat as many of our minnows as he can.
Jill and her family have been to visit, one memorably thundery afternoon (Jane does not do thunder, so we had to offer lots of Olympic coverage to distract her). Luckily we made it to the swimming pool before the heavens opened, and then came home to congregate in the kitchen (as everyone seems to do no matter what house I’m in), setting up Avery’s childhood dollhouse for Jane and Molly to rediscover. We measured everyone, as usual. Molly is far too small for her name to appear anywhere near Avery’s, this summer!
And Jane’s requested spaghetti and meatballs for dinner! I don’t know what story I was telling here, but it must have had a great punchline.
This week saw us on our twice-yearly trip up to Washington, Connecticut, to pop into our favorite bookstore. We detoured to our friend Judy’s brother’s farmstand, high on the hilltop overlooking the valley, where we were lucky enough to find Judy herself and have a visit, plus stock up on beets, peaches, corn and lettuce.
Onward to the Hickory Stick, one of those magical bookshops where you find books you would never have dreamed of, and feel good about buying them. Take that, Amazon!
We went on to Litchfield for our traditional trip to my favorite woollens shop, R. Derwin, where I fully intended to give myself and Avery new cashmere sweaters, as we do every summer. But my GOODNESS! What has happened to the prices? Recession, what recession? All we could afford were sweaters on the “damaged” rack, with little moth-holes peppered about. Those will fit right into my wardrobe in London where everything has a hole!
This summer has also, of course, been taken over by the Olympics. John streams coverage live from the BBC until they close up for the day, then we turn to NBC for the evenings. Oh, the Opening Ceremony: daft! so British! the Queen arriving in a helicopter, dozens of Mary Poppins floating in with black umbrellas, and Kenneth Branagh in mutton chop sideburns quoting from Calaban? Only in England! During the Parade of Nations, Avery mused, “St. Vincent and the Grenadines? Sounds like a rock band.”
Avery’s sense of humor has brought many a shout of laughter from us all this summer. High on my list was her reply to my moaning about the demise of the American Soap Opera industry (I was raised on “Days of Our Lives.”). “It’s just a shame when ANY industry goes under,” I soapboxed. “All those jobs lost, all the passion for it dissolved. No industry should suffer that fate.” Pause. Avery: “Well, there IS human trafficking.”
She is the best.
One impossibly steamy afternoon, we acquired a generator. After last summer’s debacle with Hurricane Irene and six days with no electricity or water (well water), we determined never to live through that again. So our very romantic wedding anniversary and Christmas gift to each other was this baby.
Throughout it all, Rosemary and I have been cooking, cooking, cooking. What a joy it is to have company in the kitchen! She and I have been at this, our favorite activity, for going on 30 years now, and we have the routine down pat. She chops the garlic, the shallots, the mint, the basil — whatever requires precision and dedication! I try to keep track of getting everything to the table on time. Fried haddock, BBQ chicken wings, ENDLESS bean salads, slaws and roasted vegetables, chicken burgers, roasted salmon, BLTs, you name it. Corn on the cob nearly every night!
And the special treat without which no summer would be complete: Maine lobster.
Avery was a reluctant photographer on this occasion, not relishing being quite so close to the food chain. As Kim Kardashian said, “Lobsters are the only food we kill before we eat them.” Hmmm… whatever, they were delicious, steamed and served with a spicy aioli.
(one lobster per two people)
lobsters (steamed and chilled)
minced white onion
mayonnaise, chili sauce and lemon juice to taste
top-split hot dog rolls
Simply take your lobster apart: tail and claws. I know there is meat in the rest of it, but I don’t ever know how to find it (except sucking on the legs!). Wash the tail thoroughly to remove any green goo. Chop the meat into the size bites you like and mix with the celery, onion and dressing ingredients. Pile generously into the rolls and sprinkle with chives.
Yesterday found us at the town pool (forever to be known as the Town Poo, when the “L” fell off the sign last summer), on a truly perfect, American pool day. There was a camp there, so shouts of “Marco… Polo…” drifted across the water, as they have for centuries in pools just like this one. “Don’t run!” the supermodel lifeguards screech.” “Don’t hang on the ladder!”
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