Our town was strangely quiet last Tuesday morning, that very unofficial first day of Autumn. Traffic is now relatively minimal; no longer the steady stream of cars and motorcycles on my street, some of them indifferently ignoring the SLOW DOWN signs posted on neighbourhood lawns. The sidewalk leading to our still-warm Lake is now empty of eager summer folks lugging ice-packed coolers and colourful flotation devices to water’s edge. Check-out lines at local grocery stores are becoming noticeably shorter. But in this very unofficial first week of Autumn, I am still hanging on to favourite summer memories.
LIVING ON THE BEACH: No, I have not spent my children’s inheritance by impulsively splurging on a lakeside cottage. The beach has now come to me in the form of a fine powdery sand crunching underfoot throughout our home. Since the last of our visiting families left a week ago, I am literally walking on sand. I would never mean to imply (in case they read this) that there is carelessness involved. Everyone dutifully washed off feet and other sandy parts before entering the front door. Yet, somehow sand snuck in, likely lurking in other crevasses. I also realize their new puppy would have trucked sand in, hidden within her thick brown fur.
The good news is that all winter, I plan to lean back in my canvas beach chair, sunglasses on my head, sip a cold one and feel that comforting sense of sand between my toes, while never having to leave the house—or fly to Florida.
SPEAKING OF DOGS: After being dog-free for 25 years, this summer I shared our home with “Joey” my Toronto family’s new Springer Doodle. That delightful, five-month-old puppy gave me so much unconditional love that I wondered why I had chosen to remain ‘dogless’ for all those years. Every morning at 7am our daughter-in-law dutifully took Joey outside for her first bladder-emptying trip of the day. (To clarify, it was the dog, not the woman.)
Every morning at 7am as the front door closed, and I cozily still lingered in bed, I was reminded why I have chosen to be dog-free for 25 years.
BEACH-DOGGING: After I eventually climbed out of bed and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, Joey and her family were ready for the Lake. Dogs are not allowed on the beach. My responsibility was to sit with the ‘granddog’ at a boardwalk bench and watch the younger generations cavort, dolphin-like, in the rolling waves.
Joey was well-behaved and accepted being leashed and stuck with me, not her familiar family. As the sun grew hotter, she found a cool refuge under my bench. It became even cooler as she learned to dig a deep hole in the sand with her hind legs, inadvertently scattering most of that excavated sand all over the concrete sidewalk. Once comfortable In her trench, Joey kept a watchful eye on the family frolics.
Every few moments, female passersby of a certain age would slow down and take notice of us. In my ‘imagination’, this conversation soon followed:
“You are the cutest thing. What’s your name, honey?”
“Hello! I’m Bob. And you aren’t too bad-looking yourself.”
After a long, cold and awkward silence: “I was speaking to your dog.”
Actual interactions were less embarrassing. I found that holding leashed dogs somehow gives two complete strangers permission to talk with one another. I also discovered that it could be a slippery slope toward animal envy, pitting pedigree against pedigree.
“Beautiful dog! What breed is that?”
“She’s a Springer Doodle.” To be polite, I then made a similar inquiry. “And your dog?”
“He’s an Australian Sheep Dog. Cost me a bundle. Smartest dog around.”
But what if Joey were a mere mongrel, the product of some unholy, clandestine liaison between a towering Saint Bernard and a flirtatious chihuahua? Suppose my doggie was a bedraggled rescue from Mexico, with ribs showing and still badly fur-manged? I would lose all bragging rights. But can a mixed breed still give and receive unconditional love? Of course! It is not a competition.
As I reflect on the past summer, any concern about sandy floors becomes trivial. I prefer to remember the happy shouts of grandkids in the surf, hugs from family members no longer separated by the closed American border for 18 long months. I can still hear the sizzle of burgers, snap-crackle-and-popping on the grill. I see farm-fresh vegetables on plates. With Covid restrictions easing, I am renewed by maskless conversations with close friends under the shade of backyard patio umbrellas. I have gratefully stored enough leftover memories to feed and nourish my soul until next summer