The heat was rising even though it wasn’t yet ten in the morning. Along the coast there seemed to be no breeze, just a still flatness, the water almost motionless and oddly quiet as if the sound had been sucked out of the air. Heat warnings had been issued, temperatures predicted to reach well over a hundred degrees. In the north wild fires raged attributed to climate change.
The overall mood produced by the oppressive atmosphere, both political and natural, was one of unease as if something unpredictable were about to take place. It was earthquake weather.
To add to the feeling of treading on shaky ground is an unexpected auto repair bill of more than $700, which we are on our way to pay. This on top of the recent appliance repair bill for Old Red, the refrigerator.
The Beleaguered Husband and I had been living in some fool’s paradise of pretending the refrigerator would just start being cold again as if, after months of resting and hardly achieving anything even close to a whisper of a chill, Old Red would miraculously kick in again. Maybe the Fridge Fairy would wave her wand and we wouldn’t have to drink lukewarm milk, lemonade, or chardonnay when we can get it. Although we attempted several do-it-yourself repairs, cleaning vents and fans to no avail, we remained doggedly faithful to the God of Appliances, believing our petitions would eventually be granted.
We were shaken to action only when our daughter, home from college, reprimanded us for living like gypsies, which I admit has, from time to time, not seemed like a bad life: the open road, stew, a tambourine, and golden coins crossing one’s palms.
Perhaps the caravan will stop for me some day, but for now here we are, driving along crowded PCH, knowing we may have ice in the freezer but no money in the bank. We will also have a car that no longer leaks gas, which is a good thing, but only gets us back to where we were in the first place.
As the Red Queen says in, Alice In Wonderland, “Sometimes it takes all the running you can do, just to keep in the same place,” and pushes home the point, adding, “If you want to get somewhere else you must run twice as fast.” Perish the thought.
I’m thinking these things over, pondering cabbages and kings, and the importance of being grateful for what you do have, when suddenly I see it. My heart leaps. There in the parking lot at the edge of the sea is a winter wonderland! Right there in the middle of the dog days of summer, are pine trees dusted with snow, banks of white flakes, a small Alpine cabin-like structure, even a signpost with arrows pointing in different directions. Although I can’t read them from the passing car, I bet they say things like Santa’s Workshop, Reindeer Barn, Candy Shop and Eggnog Bar. In a moment I’m sure elves and the Big Man himself will appear. It is, of course, a set constructed for some production, but I like to believe it’s a true bit of actual Christmas in summer conjured just for me. I look back watching as long as I can before it disappears from sight, lost in the blaze and glare of the unrelenting sun.
I’m not really a stranger to Christmas in summer and have been known to enjoy an offering of Christmas in July, a television presentation of Christmas specials and movies aired in mid-summer. In the summer, one has time to enjoy these programs without all the pressure and distraction of the busy holiday season. It’s so much more relaxing to watch “A Muppet Christmas Carol,” without having to hear the unmistakable, heart-wrenching sound from the other room of the tree having fallen over yet again. I’ll even admit to playing some of the Christmas CDs and singing along with Sinatra as he wraps you up with his voice singing, “And this song of mine, in three quarter time, wishes you and yours, Merry Christmas.” Thanks, Frank.
Now there is a reason for my fondness of Christmas out of season. It comes from being a kid on one of those endless Valley summer days when time dragged on and on. Out of boredom, my friend, a boy who lived next door and I got into his parent’s Christmas decorations in his garage. There I beheld treasure that I can still conjure to this day. I was recently moved to write about it.
He wanted to be rich and acted as if, to the manor born,
but he lived just next door, in Sherman Oaks, in a house without a pool.
He loved The Beverly Hillbillies with their newfound glorious wealth,
C-ment pond, a banker at their beck and call,
and of course, Miss Jane Hathaway.
On the tree in his yard he carved his future; his name and title,
PETER THE RICH
and hinted he might make me rich too.
We were nine years old.
One day he took me all the way by bus to Beverly Hills,
to see the mansion of some people,
the Darts, to whom he claimed some relation.
We stood on that wide, clean sidewalk, in front of landscaped lawns,
admiring the great house and counting the windows,
but we did not knock upon the door.
On a long and endless hot valley summer day, tired of tetherball, bored in our Keds,
we found the Christmas boxes in his garage,
and dared to open them.
And there in that half darkened, dusty place, draped with cobwebs,
spilled out shining tinsel,
candy colored rainbow beads, rich with reds and purples,
glowing glass ornaments etched with flying geese,
and sparkling silver stars,
that shone, that July afternoon,
all in front of me like treasure in Aladdin’s cave.
He gave me that and I am richer for it.
We go on a brief vacation with our children, home from college, to visit my brother’s family in San Diego. We share those old familiar summer things. The newly repaired car transported us safely there and back. Upon our return, Old Red is happily humming along, having kept all inside properly chilled. Yes, sometimes it takes all the running you can do just to stay in the same place. And for a family, together in Topanga, for a week in the summer of 2018, it’s a pretty good place to be.
As I am sewing the hole in my son’s pants, I smile to realize that in a certain sense, every day is Christmas.