Summer ends too soon. One minute we are watching fireworks, and before we know it, back to school supplies evict the picnic goods. Hardy mums start appearing in front of grocery and home improvement stores. Summer clothes are sent to the Reduced rack, and they look wilted and tired. Sweater weather apparently looms.
For the Dahls, the end of cherries means Autumn.
I grew up in Michigan, and the Cherry Festival is a big deal. Traverse City hosts this affair in late June. Some dry or chilly years this lands before there is an actual crop to harvest; originally the blossoms were the enticement. Luring folks Up North with cherry pancakes, a Cherry 5K, cherry soap and a Cherry parade announces the tourist season. Cherry agriculture is serious business, and the Leelanau farmers have realized that shipping produce is not essential to their success. They dry a few tons of sweet cherries for salads and baked goods. The main Michigan crop, however, is tart red cherries. Michigan produced 264 million pounds of tart cherries this year. Arthritics, rejoice!
What we find at the grocery store in the summer are Washington and Oregon cherries. Ranier or red, they are sweet and juicy. Like summer corn, they arrive, addict us, and then evaporate.
This was the week they disappeared.
In our house, Steve is the connoisseur of cherries. ( I am distracted by aspiration or disposal of the pit, and fear that I will crack a tooth. I am not inclined to pit spit.) Ever the dutiful wife, I have procured a bottomless supply of fruit for him all season. He is appreciative. Yesterday found me trundling to three groceries for the last chance to gain the marketing approval of the husband. Finally, at Jewel, I found 10 bags huddling together, crowded by grapes. I was tempted to kidnap them all, but honestly- that many cherries would rot before they could be consumed. Steve will stretch his supply until the weekend, and then concede that he will be cherry-free until Chile starts sending their crop North in the winter. We are both in summer mourning.
This morning, my first grand daughter strapped on a Disney Princess backpack and headed to kindergarten, and my first grandson settled in to first grade. Mary and Henry are ready, but of course their parents are not. They know. Mike had to take a moment to compose himself as he watched Mary summon her composure, overcome her fear, and skip up the steps to her new school.
With this hand-off to a new school, parents step back and watch their children fly. They tremble. What is harder than letting go? Sharing.
It requires a leap of faith to relinquish control of a little one. Mom and Dad pray that someone will protect them, care for them, and treasure them as they do. They worry that classmates will be mean, or that their child is not ready for academics, or for sitting still.
More subtly, the beginning of elementary school marks the end of parental autonomy. The school calendar will be the external control mechanism for 13 years. Vacations, sleep schedules, Sunday nights- all will be molded by a force larger than Home Rule. There is a loss of power. Thoughtful parents rewind their own school lives, and they recall the perils. No one graduates from the education system without divots, and no parent wants their beloved child to be hurt. Ever.
All I can say to my sons and their wives is that these beautiful young children are ready. The seedling season is over. The root system is strong, nurtured with love and care. Now they will reach up and out; they will blossom and bear fruit. With nurturing and guidance, they will thrive. Everyday cannot be sweet and juicy: there will be pits. There will be tart and delicious moments. You will be there for them all. This is your precious harvest, after these childhood days of freedom. Celebrate and enjoy. Time, like cherry season, rushes by.