Last Saturday, Cape Cod, dusk.
We're sitting around the fire pit in the yard of what was once my grandparents' house (now officially my aunt and uncle's), a fair chunk of the family. The day before we threw a surprise party for my grandmother's 90th birthday ("the biggest surprise of my life," she called it). Earlier on Saturday a clutch of us ran in the Brew Run, I with my cousin Sarah at my side the whole way--a delight on many levels--and then sat down to our annual clambake feast.
After dinner, my Uncle Bob built a fire, and by ones and twos we started congregating around it. Now, with night coming, we're swapping stories, laughing so hard we occasionally double over. We run back and forth to the food tent to fetch cake, and then, just to gild the lily, Aunt Char brings out a platter of cookies. (Later, Sarah will dip that gilded lily in glitter by bringing out the makings of s'mores, and Jess will root around in the dark until she comes up with a few suitable marshmallow roasting sticks.) We stick glass bottles of various colors and sizes into the coals to watch them slowly soften and collapse, then try to retrieve them, with varying degrees of success.
Uncle Eric points out the North Star. Someone points to the moon, heavy and huge, and asks, Waxing or waning? I guess waxing, not wanting to think of the fullness going (too soon, too soon). My niece sits on my mother's lap in her pj's, an earlier attempt at putting her down for nightnights having proved unsuccessful; now she watches the flames rapt, growing quiet and sleepy. The circle around the fire grows as more people drag chairs down to join us.
These few hours--these few days--have been so achingly perfect that for a while I forget that they won't last. Heather raises a toast to Twin Chimneys, the family "manse" (quotes intentional); this is the last summer we'll know it as we have for the past 35 years. Starting soon, it will get the renovation it so sorely needs, and in the process will be stripped to the studs. Starting even sooner, family members will start peeling off to return home, setting off our long succession of goodbyes. And starting even sooner still, people will turn in for the night, our circle like a waning moon, the fire beginning to die down.
But for a while we're all here. Bob throws more logs on the fire. Eric fishes a droopy bottle from the flames. The platter of sweets makes another round. The house glows from inside in the background, still standing. The North Star flickers. We laugh. We laugh. We're here.