Indian Summer

I hastily ran a comb through my hair, picked up my purse and headed for the back door. Tammie was applying her make-up and didn’t have her shoes on. I chided, “Aren’t you ready to go YET?” We had several things planned for the day, so it was important to get an early start.

Tammie calmly put down her tube of lipstick and said, “I’ll be ready in a minute. If you want, you can get the car out of the garage while you’re waiting.”

Before stepping out of the back door, I paused in front of the entryway full-length mirror. The mature woman in it returned my critical inspection. Running my fingers through a clump of curls, I nodded at her and said dryly, “We look pretty good today.” My reflection’s hazel eyes twinkled humorously.

Out on the back deck I stopped to look around. The air was warm and sticky. A hazy sun hovered high above. In the ditches along the road, there were tall clumps of golden rod, milkweed, and tansy. Somewhere hidden within their dusty leaves were insects that buzzed and sizzled a serenade to the end of summer.

I frowned at a grasshopper that landed on the tip of my left shoe and thought about how Tammie will soon be leaving for college. At her high school graduation she had called this her last summer of childhood. We agreed to fit as many special mother-daughter memories into it as possible. The time was passing by so fast!

Our first special together time was spent visiting her college campus to register. Some of the venerable buildings there were covered in ivy vines and bordered by well-groomed shrubs. Sturdy annuals lined the walkways…millions of day lilies were blooming. Inside the buildings, long hallways lined with doors-soon-to-be-opened excited a flutter of envy in my heart. Here, Tammie would do something I never did. Would a college education change her?

Our second memory-making time was spending a night in a wood-bound cabin, sans water and electricity. We made a party of it with her sister, Niki, her husband Mike and little Anne. The orange campfire flames did a leaping dance and we had a memorable toasted marshmallow feast. A loud, mysterious thump in the deepest of the trees gave us a delightful fright. Without town lights, the night was black as licorice, without spring peepers, silent as a vacuum. I lay awake for a long time that night. Beside me, Tammie slept deeply. Her steady, even respiration’s ticked the time away.

Tammie and I made a point of frequently spending time playing badminton this summer. In the orange-tinted glow of dusk, we swung our racquets at errant shuttlecocks, mosquitoes, road grit and each other’s playful insults. Staggering with tiredness didn’t excuse either one of us from our thirty-minute attempts to keep the birdie airborne as we talked and laughed.

Arnie and I traveled to Seattle with Tammie during August. She loved Mt Rainer just as much as Arnie did and she spent more time than I did on the top deck with him when we went whale-watching. Was Arnie surprised when our daughter very knowledgeably made conversation with him about cars, and country western singers? The pricey haircut she had while we were in Seattle made her look like an independent, successful college student. Why did that surprise me? That is exactly what she is…or will soon be.

We are running out of summer. Today’s outing will be an exhausting endurance test as we shop for things she will need in the dorm.

Tammie’s graduation from high school was like an early September frost. Our baby of the family was grownup and it was time for her to move on. The time we spent together since has been like an unexpected but welcome bonus of warm, late autumn weather.

Behind me the house door opened and I heard Tammie ask, “Don’t you have the car out yet?” I looked down at my left foot. The grasshopper was still there. Taking a step made it jump off my foot like a swimmer leaping from a high dive board. It landed unnoticed in the anonymous world of our freshly mown lawn. I happily went to the garage thinking about how lucky I was to have another Indian summer adventure with Tammie.

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