By the time you lay hands on a paper copy of this issue (does anybody really do that anymore? Somebody must, as the boxes we pass are nearly always empty), August will be almost done. No "thank God" necessary this year, not like last year, when the temperatures rose past 115 and the skyscrapers downtown were seen to noticeably wilt toward any patch of shade.
This year, August in Arkansas has been a virtual lamb of a month, with one long cool spell in its midst that routinely convinced The Observer we'd somehow fell asleep in July and snoozed into early October, the mornings chill as autumn and the grass dew-covered — the kind of summer that we've heard only happens way up North but not in Arkansas, which sometimes seems to be the backyard of Hades. We were sure for a couple summers there that this state was on its way to becoming a sun-blasted province of Texas, the oak trees withered to burnt matchsticks and the corn stunted and the great lawns of the Heights and Hillcrest and West Little Rock scooped up by the wind and blown away, leaving only a Dorothea Lange portrait of quiet, sepia-toned desperation. Then came this August, so mild and lovely, with even a few days of rain. It gave us hope that we can stave off the Desert of Arkansas for at least a few more years.
And now, here we are, ready to leave summer behind, the hot-knobbed door of August soon to coast shut, the kiddies and their teachers frowning into their textbooks for over a week now. Two days ago, Spouse took the wool coats down from their hook behind the door, beat the dust out of them, put The Observer's camel-colored, carpet-sized drape over the arm of the couch so it could be ferried to the dry cleaners and readied for another winter. "So soon?" we heard ourself say. Soon, we know, we'll be saying: September so soon? Halloween so soon? First frost so soon? Thanksgiving so soon? Christmas? New Years? All so soon?
Such is life, kiddies. Look up from your books a minute and listen. Though your summers last forever, here's the secret: It all speeds up as you get older. Soon, the days will flip past like the calendar pages in an old movie. One day will bleed into the next until the months blur into seasons, and then even the seasons will bleed into sensations: Hot to chilly to cold to warm to hot again, the years become bicycle spokes clicking past. Sooner or later, The Observer fears, our years will simply become days: spring at dawn, summer through noon, autumn afternoon, winter at dusk.
Here is the further secret, kids: do all you can to slow them down. Make the days last. Claw at their hems and stuff them with experience. It's the best any of us mortals can do.
Junior is 13, and as is the case with many 13 year olds, our beloved son believes that every sentient being in the world is studying his every move. Part of that is his insistence on turning the radio down every time we pull up to school in the morning. The Observer loves music, but Junior seems to believe that if even the barest note of one of our lame old fart songs were to leak out the car door, everyone in Hillcrest would be shocked to learn that his driver is not, in fact, a car-piloting automaton who powers down in the parking lot out back until it's time to pick him up in the afternoon.
Feeling particularly chipper on Friday morning, The Observer was listening to an old metalhead song as we motored to the temple of knowledge, with Junior dutifully reaching over and turning it down as we eased to the curb. We said our goodbyes, and the door swung open. At that point, just because it's kinda our job to be embarrassing sometimes, The Observer cranked the stereo to 11, with a blast of screeching, hair-metal guitar ejecting our boy out onto the sidewalk.
"ROCK ON, DUDE!" hateful ol' Dad said, then flashed him the Ronnie James Dio devil horns. Do we have to add that he slammed the car door so hard that it created a visible ripple in The Matrix?
We feel kinda guilty about that. Kinda. Sure, we'll share a laugh about it someday. For the next few years, though, it's probably better not to mention it.