It begins with an early wake-up call, a bowl of cereal, and the morning light in my kitchen washing softly across the pages of the book I’m reading.
It’s quiet and cool in the house, cool outside, the chairs on the deck wet with dew. The feel of a simple pair of GM keys in my hands. Driving the older car, the one I’ve tried to convince Kel to replace, the one with stickers on the back. Nothing high technology. Insert key. Turn. Hear the engine crank to life. Windows down to feel the cool air better. The takeoff down the highway; no body’s out yet but the yardsalers. It’s early. The transmission holds onto each gear forever before slipping into the next, the motor stretching a little bit as it awakens.
The rain has been good this year. The corn stands are tall and thick and green. You could hide an entire school of boys in one field and never even know they were there. The sun is pouring across the ridge now, spilling all over a barn. There’s an old farm truck in front of me, its motor burning rich. I can smell the gasoline through my open window, mixing with the dense air. They turned off the analog yesterday, but everything about this morning is frozen in time.
This is the kind of car that’s old enough, and this is the kind of place that’s small enough that I can leave the car with the keys in the ignition. Simple.
I pass the new pharmacy on the way back, a man holding his son’s hand, his wife behind them. They are walking in for breakfast. The men at the tire store have arrived, there are cars lined up two deep in front of the huge bay doors, and those waiting sit out front with their coffee.
Back home, we ride bikes with my niece. The day is reaching the turning point where morning’s cool evaporates, and the real bake of a summer’s day is setting in. An hour yet to noon, and it’s safe to say that come four this afternoon it’s going to be summer-hot. We pedal, the last wisps of morning air diffused through our shirts, the chores of the neighborhood well under way. They all are busy at once, behind mowers, on ladders cleaning gutters, on the other side of a desk hauled out to the street.
Or they pass us in cars, their faces pressed against the windows, watching us ride as if we are on TV. Occasionally one will recognize Kel and wave through an open window. Then they are off, zooming away in their motor cars while we push hard on the sidewalks.
We talk of everything. Boys, cats, squirrels, burps, California, friends, church, parties, limes, and courage. Parents, racing, poison ivy, school, movies, and the truth. We order lunch at a drive-in and eat on a picnic table outside.
When we make it back to the house, we each feel accomplished. Kel goes to read a book, Leah watches a movie downstairs, and I walk out to the shed. The grass is tall. Gas cans covered in spider webs. The mower rumbles to life. It’s my turn to do chores.
Two hours later, the sun beating down in full force, and I am too tired to care about the grass anymore. I am sticky with sweat, covered in dirt and grime and grass clippings. The dog wants to play Frisbee. The lady next door cannot get her lawnmower started. I walk over, stare at it, climb on, and it starts beautifully.
We all converge at the same time, roughly–the movie is over, reading time is done, and I am ready for a cold shower. Afterward, there’s nothing to do but sleep, so we sleep, ceiling fans on, the air conditioning feels good on our skin, my headache, may allergies fading away as I drift into the sleep I missed in order to catch this morning.
Our wake-up call is dinner. We drop off Leah, stop by the store for a couple of things. Our supper sits heavy in our stomachs, so we come home, leash the dog, and head to the park. It is eight thirty in the evening, and people are still mowing–or rather, they’ve waited until now to get it done. Mowers buzz all day long. God has turned off the oven for the day. He’s done baking us.
We walk, the air stiff enough to keep us moist with sweat, and I let the dog run free when we make it to the soccer fields. She runs ahead, sniffing the pools of rainwater from the storm two days ago. It is a wonderful life. We watch the sun disappear, clouds of white towering almost toward heaven. Thunderheads. Anvils, their heads blown clear off by wind sheers. The horizon grows darker, grayer, heavier. There is a line of houses along a hill, houses in the neighborhood next to ours that border the road to the soccer fields, sharing a long, wooden fence. They appear other-worldly as the sky grumbles and threatens, vulnerable.
It is a simple product of heat and humidity, this towering storm. No more than five minutes from when we return to the house, a sudden wind cuts through the trees, a warning that rain is coming very, very soon. I light candles and keep the lights low to watch the rain, and then it comes in sheets, driving, pounding, washing away the dust stirred from mowing today, cleansing. The sky is filled with lightning. One crack lands a few houses over, and I hear a snap in our own electricity, and then the house shakes with a tremendous roar.
Soon the rain slacks off enough that I can hear sirens in the distance. The first, and then the second, their wails rising and falling on top of one another. A third voice cries out. They are coming towards me.
The dog curls up on the rug, and I can hear the fire engines turning familiar corners, and I see them in my head, making the turn by the rest home, horns blaring down the long, straight stretch to my neighborhood before they hush their sirens out of respect. It’s silly to race through a subdivision with sirens blaring.
The other neighbors have followed them, too, and we all appear on our porches and stoops together, all of us watching as the strobe lights shine above houses, as the ladder truck’s great engine idles. We can’t see well enough to determine if it was lightning striking a rooftop or a tree blown over in the wind, or whatever else might determine a three unit response.
It all fades away soon enough, and all of us wander back down to our dens, the storm moving east towards Salisbury, the electric fury far enough away so that it’s safe to turn the TV back on. One by one, they light up in every house, their blue glows casting shadows outside, where there is now only a mist falling, a plopping, steady drip from the trees, a new stillness, and another perfect atmosphere, ready, waiting for another summer’s morn.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post originally appeared as a Facebook note published June 13, 2009.