Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Banquet

From my seventh grade fall through the summer following my college graduation, my family called Martha's Vineyard home. When you share such a place was your "growing up home," people oooh and aaah, of course--I'm quick to tell them, however, that we lived there when I was springing out on my own, ready to leave home and carve out my own life. As a result, I often lived away for some part of the summer, whether for the whole summer to work at beautiful Pathfinder Lodge in the equally-wonderful Cooperstown, NY, or to attend a study program for a period of weeks when the boats were filled to capacity and the streets pulsing with the bodies craving a taste of the many Vineyard delights. For that ten year period, there was only one summer when I lived home for the entire summer.

I had accepted a summer internship--a ministry role with a local camp, providing much-needed practical experience in my chosen field of Youth Ministry, and earning the credits I was awaiting as I worked my way toward graduation. Somewhere early in that summer my mother crafted a list for what we called "A Very Vineyard Summer," posting it on the refrigerator and checking off the activities as we experienced them. Whether picking strawberries from a local farm (my mother always insisted the high prices presumed a certain amount of field consumption), visiting a favorite beach for an evening sunset, or eating breakfast at the famed Black Dog, we dove into that summer and devoured each and every day. Somewhere along the way there was a wonderful newspaper editorial naming every season of Vineyard life a satisfying meal, but declaring summer "the banquet." We ate ourselves into a stupor that summer, figuratively and literally--capping off the three months together with a James Taylor concert at then Great Woods in Mansfield, MA. It was a very Vineyard summer indeed.

Eight months later my mother was gone, dead of pancreatic cancer that crept into her body long before it crept into our vocabulary. We knew of her cancer for only a month prior to her death, but there are days when I know that our very Vineyard summer sprung out of a place of deep knowing--a recognition that defies conscious awareness, but guides and leads our actions nevertheless. That summer was a fine, fine gift, and I treasure it still.

Perhaps because of these summer memories, I've approached summer as the banquet ever since. In our new Connecticut home, we have what I call "an embarrassment of riches"--our napkins are tucked in at our necks, our silverware raised, and we're eating course after course after course of a life of beauty and delight. The summer's treasures thus far....
  • Basketball, bikes and tennis in our expansive driveway and yard--some evenings we bounce the tennis ball off the kids' helmets as they circle us full-speed on their bikes.
  • The July 3rd (it rained on the 4th!) concert at Hartford Symphony's summer home in Simsbury, followed by fireworks worthy of a far larger community than this.
  • Experimental vegetable gardening--no harvest yet due to late planting, but the fun of watching edible life springing out of the ground from seeds as small as the eye can behold.
  • More concert pleasures....two Lori McKenna concerts, one with Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
  • Fruit, fruit and more fruit purchased from local farm stands and our many area grocery stores--the juice literally drips down our chins and necks as we suck down these delights.
  • Evening drives to the many destinations near our new home--the large sycamore tree along the Farmington River is a favorite.
  • And what would a list of summer pleasures be without another mention of our trip to New Hampshire's Storyland, many days visiting Auntie in Boston and Grandma and Grandpa in upstate New York, and two blissful days with my niece from Oregon visiting us in CT. Heaven on earth in many different forms!

Our dear friends have just packed their car and pulled away from an overnight visit of laughter, loud shouts from children playing happily together, and countless hours sitting on the screen porch watching the sun move across the sky in yet another perfect arc. From this weekend banquet I feel filled to capacity--as though I couldn't eat another bite. The tents are up in the yard, though, and a summer storm is rolling in--let the next course begin....


Sue said...

I miss you all already!! Driving away was so hard for me to do ... Your home proved to be an oasis for me, a brief escape into a world of fun and friendship and love that I sorely needed. Thank you for your hospitality and caring ... and any "trepidation" (unconscious or otherwise) that might have been felt at "meeting" again after such a long time had been instantly eradicated. I will always appreciate the blessings of a true and strong friendship, being able to pick up just where we left off without a hitch ...

I love the banquet analogy -- linking to our conversation in the car about our blessings and abundance, spread before us on the table even though we might be blind to it at the moment. Thanks for your own discipline in this and sharing it here ... it helps me take a look around at my own banquet and the abundance I have.

I love you, dear friend!! Thanks for being a cherished part of my life.

Kristen said...

Hi Jennifer - that was beautiful, as usual. I could picture it all, like I was there with you.