A few weeks ago, as I was worrying over some work problem that seemed important at the time although now I can’t remember it, my teenage son texted me a picture from our goldfish pond. It was a photo of the latest blossom from our water lilies, something we knew wouldn’t last for long.
When the blooms appear, they emerge around dawn, closing by noon. They’re butter-yellow in the center, with creamy white petals the color of the moon. Each blossom is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but we don’t try to hold them. They look too fragile to be possessed so closely.
The best way to enjoy the blooms is simply to look at them, but that isn’t always easy to do. My wife and I are usually scrambling to the office when the lily blooms appear, as quietly as a star, and just as far beyond our attention.
The snapshots that circulate on our smartphones from time to time these past few months are a way to keep in mind, if just for moment, the reason we put in a pond in the first place — to connect with a world that has nothing to do with deadlines, tweets or the ebb and flow of the stock market, the ups and downs of politics.
One day this summer, I got to be the pond’s recording secretary, sending out a picture of the latest pond flower to family members scattered on either side of the country — our daughter traveling in California, my wife and our son tooling around Boston. The photo was my way to let them know the home they love was still going about its business, waiting for them to return.
The lily blooms have reminded us of something else this summer, something about summer itself. The season, like the growing things that fill it, is a fleeting thing, easy to overlook before it vanishes.
This month, on the night before he started his senior year of high school, our son mentioned a milestone. “This is the last day of the last summer of my childhood,” he told me. I suppose he’s right. He’ll turn 18 before another summer comes, passing the formal bridge from boy to man.
I haven’t thought of him as a child in a long time. He is taller than I am — stronger, hairier and, in a hundred ways, smarter. Our conversation made me think of another change in our family. This was likely the last summer our household of four is going to live under the same roof. Our daughter, freshly graduated from college, starts her new career out of state in October. Our son has already returned to a boarding school for gifted kids some three hours away.
As the summer fades, I find myself thinking of the holidays when, with any luck, we’ll be together again.