Catalogs and advertisements in my mailbox inform me that summer is coming to an end. I refuse to believe it. Summer won't be over for ages and ages here in North Carolina, even if it will be getting cold at night soon in New England and parents must there must rush to buy plaid flannel shirts from LL Bean for their children before school begins. Today it's wet and the air is thick and humid. I pulled weeds in the garden this afternoon and listened to the distant rumbling of thunder and waited until the sound of coming rain began to sweep across the woods and pour down on my head before I emptied my bucket of weeds, grabbed the stalks of mint that I had cut from where they pushed over their boundaries into the garden path, and ran up to the house, dripping. The boys were in the kitchen making popcorn and Mason ran out too late with an umbrella for me, I was already at the door. He's twelve, almost thirteen, now and notices things like mothers running through the rain and has the forethought to grab an umbrella. He told me to stay on the mat inside the door and he'd run to get me a towel.
I took my shoes off and looked at the mud dripping down my legs and quickly went to change. I asked Mason to put the kettle on so I could make tea when I came back. Annabelle is sick and she called out to me from a chair in the living room to let me know that Mason had only given her a tiny cup of popcorn and told her she couldn't have any more than that because she was sick. I'm not sure why he thought popcorn wouldn't be good for her, but I told him to let her have some more. Annabelle is almost ten. She takes much better care of herself when she is sick now, though of course she wants extra snuggling. And that's okay. I'm very happy she's gotten used to the idea that she doesn't need me by her side the whole night when she is sick.
I changed my sodden clothes and made my cup of tea. I picked up my book and headed for the couch to sit next to Mason reading his comic books. Not surprisingly, our new pup, Diamond, noticed that I was on the couch and came over to see if she could get up to be with me. She got distracted by something under the couch and the next thing we knew she was whimpering because she had gotten herself all the way under the couch and couldn't get out. Only her little head was sticking out looking at us imploringly. Annabelle laughed and came over to help her by giving her a toy to grip with her teeth and then pull her out. Bear looked on with his usual expression of "oh, for heaven's sake."
I'm re-reading Meet the Austins, by Madeleine L'Engle. I've always loved L'Engle, and never grown tired of juvenile fiction, probably because juvenile fiction still seeks to treat difficult or adult subjects with implication and decency rather than lurid description. I don't really like seeing into other peoples private bedroom lives on screen or on a page.
I'm enjoying revisiting the Austin family again after many years. I read nearly everything L'Engle wrote in my teens and early twenties. Her young adult fiction is written from the perspective of people in that same age bracket and I could always relate strongly to her characters. However, this time around I have discovered that my interest is drawn again to the characters my own age- this time, the characters of the parents, Victoria and Wallace Austin. I never paid much attention to them before, but now I see them in an entirely different light- the kind of wise parents of the sort family I aspire to have. They are my kind of people- people of faith and music and books and poetry and art and nature and science and interesting conversation, respecting their children as intelligent and thoughtful humans, setting the kind of boundaries that make children free and safe at the same time. I find myself taking careful note of their answers to their childrens' difficult questions, and how they respond to flightiness, selfishness, fighting, and all the things that are so familiar to any parent.
It stopped raining and I got up and chopped up the mint leaves and some fresh ginger and poured boiling water over them tea for Annabelle's stomach, and Craig's too, who stayed home from work today with the same ailment. With some honey there is nothing finer. And now I'm having my own cup and contemplating spaghetti for dinner.