When September comes here, in deep-heat just-south-of-center Texas, the claws of summer are still dug into us. Backpacks are sitting, half zipped, on the counter and the fresh soles of school shoes have been marked from use, but the heat still shimmers off the pavement at midday. We still wear the gloss of sweat on our arms here in September, still feel the wall of air constrict our chests when we climb into a hot car.
Perhaps the light lengthens, begins to pull harder at shadows and grows shy as the evenings grow late. Perhaps we can feel a shift as the heat loosens its grip almost imperceptibly. It doesn't evaporate, but suddenly it seems tired. Suddenly we sense that summer is looking over its shoulder, preparing to take a step backwards. Or perhaps September has a certain smell that reminds us and promises us that summer will not last forever, for all its steely bravado.
This year, I felt September walking in on thin legs, reedy things that threatened to buckle at the knees. I thought at first it would be no match for August, but then I remembered how the month would wage a quiet battle, gathering strength until one day I would walk out the door and feel the weight of summer lifted suddenly from the air. Let summer flex its muscles; fall will creep in stealth-like and wait, in the stretched-out shadows of summer's fading light, for its moment to strike.
Today I thought of all this, visions of pumpkins dancing in my head. With August gone, I have an acute sense of the end of my children's fourth and sixth year. Next month, they will be five and seven years old, despite the fact that my brain has them perpetually frozen at two and four.
And I take this bitter pill of watching them grow out of their baby faces and their tiny fingers and toes without a shred of grace. I feel the cord stretch between us, the one that once bound us but now only remains in my mind, feel it tugging at the core of me, and I want to scream for them to stop growing and changing and moving farther and farther away from me. Come sit in my lap, I tell them, and let me hold you just a little longer.
I believe every other mother on the planet takes this better than I do because, if they didn't, why would anyone do this ridiculous thing? I tell people how nice it is that the boys are more self sufficient now, but beneath it there is the constant droning realization that I am slowly losing them, releasing them. I will let them go, little by little, because they deserve to be free from their silly mother when they are ready, but I will not like it.
Except that tonight, after their showers (because good grief they have decided they take showers now), after I wriggled the little one in his pajamas, they lay in Lincoln's bed together while Nico read a story. I went downstairs to finish up the dishes and listened to the faint sound of their voices, Nico reading about the Pokie Little Puppy and Linc babbling and laughing. When I made it back upstairs, they were lying side by side on their tummies, blanket draped over them both, their hair still wet with fresh combed lines like the grooves in a harvested field. At two and four, I remembered, they did not know how to love each other like this. They played near each other, fought over every toy the other one touched, more coexisted than anything.
But right now, they revolve around each other, two satellites, each caught in the other's gravity. I remember, nights like tonight, that watching them grow into this golden period of mutual adoration, watching them grow toward each other, eases the ache of watching them grow away from me. And so, I put away August and turn the calendar to September. I dream of pumpkins and let go of two and four, as much as I can. I imagine the boys as men, with strong bodies and faces I hardly recognize, and I hope that the joy of seeing them as adults will still ease the burden of losing the children they are today.
Meanwhile, September is already at work silently around us, pushing against summer and leaning into fall. August retreats, and October waits, poised, on the horizon. And I head to bed with the air conditioner singing in the vents but feel, somehow, an unexpected chill as my back touches the sheets.