For Mother’s Day, we gave my wife a patio table, a beach bag, a suspense novel, a travel magazine, and a gift certificate for something new and bright to wear in the sun.
As with so much that we give mothers, we were selfishly giving ourselves something, too. The presents pointed us hopefully toward summer, an annual gift we’re all meant to share.
After the events of last year in south Louisiana, looking forward to summer requires not only anticipation but resolve. Last summer closed for me on Aug. 13, when we drove our teenage son north, through three hours of pouring rain, to start the high school for gifted kids where he would live as a boarder.
We came home to find much of Louisiana underwater, with relatives displaced. It was a dismal end to a summer that had also included shootings and anguish in Baton Rouge. I found myself thinking that if this was what summer had become, I’d rather not see another one.
But those who suffered the most reminded me of how silly and self-indulgent my despair had become. In the months since last August, the flooded and grief-stricken have been rebuilding their lives. If they can look ahead, why shouldn’t I, who was spared the wrath, look forward, too?
Summer means homecoming at my house, as a son and daughter away at school return to live in the rooms where they grew up. We headed north again last week to collect the boy, clearing his dorm and packing the SUV as tightly as a biblical ark. On the drive back, he brainstormed aloud about his summer plans — the books he’d read, the garden he’d plant, the hikes he’d take, the friends he’d meet.
I nodded silently, both of us aware that summer is never as long as we expect it to be, the season seldom big enough to hold all of our hopes for it.
Even so, at the front door of summer, we allow ourselves to embrace the impractical, to indulge the impossible. Summer reading has begun to build, like a literary Tower of Babel, on my nightstand. Some of it will migrate to canvas sacks for trips to the beach, where it will languish, as it does every year, while I doze under a rented umbrella.
But this is a season to live in the open sunlight of expectation, not the shadow of our limits. So I stand at the kitchen sink these days and daydream of what might be.
If even half of it comes to pass, this could be the best summer of all.
Correction: As a number of subscribers pointed out, my mention in last week’s column of Immaculate Conception Jesuit Church in New Orleans as being in the French Quarter was, of course, incorrect. It’s located at 130 Baronne. I regret the error, though not the chance to connect with so many gracious readers.
Follow Danny Heitman on Twitter @Danny_Heitman.