Summer Small Talk

Vincent Van Gogh/detail (visipix.com)

It’s a New Moon so there’s little light in the sky when my husband gets up before 4:00.  He returns twenty-minutes later to kiss me goodbye, and though I’m groggy, I clearly hear the sound of the front door shutting and the finality of his tires down our driveway.

It will be close to two weeks before we see each other again–which I suppose is nothing in the lives of businessmen or military families–but it’s twice as long as we’ve gone without seeing each other this summer.

As teachers, my husband and I are rarely apart which makes this parting prickly, but sweet, in that it creates a heightened awareness and appreciation of “other.”  Of door latches.  Of tires kicking up gravel.

When I wake a few hours later, I stroll up the road to the farm stand for the Sunday morning tradition of scones and coffee.  The grass is crowded with Keens and Birkenstocks and barefeet as we commune again in the rhythm of the season. The berries are ripe for picking and the day which started cool and rainy promises to grow warm.  Too warm, if you ask me. We’re not accustomed to the dusty roads and steamy nights of late. We’re all thankful for the recent rain which gives our place on this earth its lush summer quality.

How’s your summer, Kelly?” a neighbor asks as she sidles up beside me.

I never think to ask others questions like, “How is your summer?” and I have no idea how to answer. I once had a friendly chiropractor who started each session with: “What’s new?which never ceased to produce anxiety in me because I never knew what to say–even if thought about it before hand.

The problem is that my mind works in “essay,” while the friendly person beside me is seeking fill-in-the-blank.

Smalltalk is really just about making a connection, my husband explains. One is supposed to say, “Not much, how about you?” but my mind takes it literally. I’d rather not respond at all unless we’re going to sit down with our coffee and scones and really talk.

Then, instead of smiling, I might say this:

My summer’s been shaped by comings and goings–and that feels strange.  Fragmented.  Unfamiliar.  Like the sound of a door closing at 4:30 am and your lover leaving home.

It’s not just that my husband is gone, but the kids too. They left a week ago. With my sister.  And before that, my husband said goodbye to all of us for the month (delighting me yesterday with an 18 hour surprise reprieve.)

While he was gone, we’ve had company, who’ve doubled the size of our family; and who have gone.

It is I who have remained constant.  My heart parts and receives and parts again, like a revolving door.

Each time, I return…to self.  Lighter.  Fuller.  Unfamiliar.

How is my summer?

Strange.

How about yours?

Kelly Salasin, July 2010

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