The smell of home is the smell of cinnamon and a splash of vanilla extract in the French press, along with Black Mesa, a dark coffee I purchased numerous states ago, while traveling. I begin the day with my stack of books and my laptop, at the kitchen table.
My family is home now, “put” now, and putting the long summer to an end. Scott begins school in a week, and children begin in September. We will concentrate on the school “to-do” list after we unpack suitcases for good. I am home now, too, craving routine. But still savoring family adventures and my own adventures: New Hampshire, Arizona, New Mexico, Maine, and a point on the map of New York State that measures 580 miles away, by car.
In my reading travels, I just finished a book about Leningrad in World War II, and three volumes on Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, and I’m knee-deep in a book about travel of all kinds, underworld and otherworldly. In the next month I will host guests from Pittsburgh, from Indiana, and my children clamor for a pilgrimage to New York City.
Meanwhile the salt breeze blows, and a paint crew sets up to beautify the neighbor’s house, just a few yards from my bedroom window. Kids sleep because they are in love with their own beds, despite the racket of ladders and scaffolding. Scott sleeps because we are both sleep-deprived after a week of late-night conversations, Olympic coverage, sleeping in the guest room of dear friends on the rim of Lake Chautauqua.
Chautauqua: Days of sun, sunscreen, sunburn, swimming, boating, whiffleball, Frisbee on the endless green lawn, carefree days filled with “what do you feel like doing now?” Madeleine and Jakob form a natural pairing of friends—their eyes sparkle with inventiveness and they talk books, hands gesturing as each describes a plot, or they swim and they tease one another merrily. Brendan and Simon seek whiffle ball equipment, or life-jackets, or flotation devices, and they seek the neighbor boys to play a game. Parents play some, sit back some, take turns ducking out to read a book in the shade or take a nap. There’s been no hurry for days and days—a true vacation. I can’t remember cooking at home this summer, though I know I have done so. I can’t recall that interminably long stretch of July, wondering if I’d live through everyone else’s vacations and my own student life. I just remember this sated sensation of the last month, of being filled for the long stretch of autumn and winter.
Satchmo crowds me, purring loudly and trying to shove me away from my keyboard—he is the strangest cat I’ve ever owned, chomping me on the elbow when I don’t move fast enough to suit him, pushing the laptop cord out of its socket, strange feats of strong love.
I began writing with my coffee at the table, and I end in the evening, tucked into my favorite antique bed, with a jazz saxophonist playing out his bedroom window, the neighbor boy—he’s pretty good and it’s just one more grace of open summer windows, an evening cool enough for air conditioners to be silenced. Kids are watching yet one more evening of Olympic coverage on television. And I’d better get to my homework. I’ll read about travel, tonight, while finishing my laundry and reading to the sweet salt breeze, complete with saxophone through my bedroom window.