The rest of the summer wore on in a similar fashion. I saw Jamie pretty regularly on Monday and Thursday, and he popped in at the fire on occasion, though not with any predictability. True to Sandy’s number three rule, we had not entered into a relationship of any sort other than that of friends. Even now when I think of Jamie it is with an innocent fondness, and it seems more than a little odd that I never thought him my boyfriend. In retrospect, It doesn’t seem that Sandy’s rule had anything to do with it.
Labor Day weekend arrived in no time at all. The end of summer brought the end of the regular campground season as well as a return to school and a totally different dynamic to my life. There would be no lawn maintenance on Mondays. There would be no target shooting on Thursdays. There would be no nightly campfires to be stoked and contemplated until the wee hours of the morning.
Cold weather in upstate New York would be descending rapidly, more often than not on the heels of my early September birthday. This year, I would be turning 18, full of new possibility as well as equally challenged by the monotony of small town life and familial obligation. Harsh reality awaited me, right around the corner.
The weather on this end of summer holiday weekend started out much like the summer it was drawing to a close. It was warm and sunny with just the right amount of breeze to keep it from being considered a scorcher. On Saturday afternoon, the tides turned and the weekend was suddenly bleak. The skies went from blue to hazy grey softly enough, only to be revered an hour or so later as gloomy, dark. Almost black. It was early afternoon, but for all intents and purposes it might as well have been midnight. I knew as I drew the chain through the pool fence gate that the pool was closing for the season and no one else would be swimming until the arrival of the following summer.
There was a palpable burden in the air. Before I could walk across the parking lot to the office, the sky broke open. In the few seconds it took me to sprint to the office door, I was drenched. The temperature had dropped about twenty-five degrees in less than an hour and soaked through, I was shivering. My mom suggested I call some friends to come over for an impromptu end of summer party in the game room, and while I made some calls, my dad got a fire going and set up the games to work without the need of depositing any money. He also hauled out the old Motorola turntable.
I talked to Colleen and Tina, both who agreed there was nothing else worth doing. They both also suggested that they would make some calls, and I knew that between the two of them, my mom might regret extending the party invitation. Once I knew there would certainly be a crowd, I took a deep breath and called Jamie to invite him along. I had just seen him a few days before and we had agreed that the phone would be a new way for us to visit, so my call would not be totally unexpected.
Sandy answered the phone after the first ring. I told her about the party and encouraged her to come along as my mom might like the company. Sandy was speaking in very hushed tones. Jamie had just gotten to sleep after being in a bad enough way yesterday that she had to take him to the ER for a shot to calm him. He had seen his regular doctor after that, and had a whole new series of meds to work through and that it might be better if they sorted that out before Jamie and I saw each other again. I was listening as carefully as I could and trying to follow, but this was the first I knew of meds and I didn’t really have a full understanding of what “a bad enough way” was.
Sandy said she would see me in church the next day and we could discuss it further then but wanted to stress that I needed to trust her judgement when Jamie was like this. I realized I was nodding in agreement as Sandy said my name in a questioning manner. I told her I understood and would see her in church tomorrow.
As I hung up the phone, Colleen arrived. She drove a Ford Maverick and seeing kids tumble out of it reminded me of the clowns that exited the small car at the circus. I think there were nine people in her little car. Right behind her was Tina and a few more kids. When I led them to the game room, the fire was roaring and my dad had moved the Stewart’s light bulb oven from the office. Beside it on the counter there were five or six boxes with remnants of various Stewart’s sandwiches and pizzas. I suddenly saw the brilliance of my mom’s party invitation. All of the end of season leavings would basically get consumed and there would be no worry about where they would be stored. There was a pile of chips, a few stacked cases of soda, and a note on the table saying that the ice cream in the chest freezer in the office was also fair game.
About halfway through the early evening, Colleen’s mom showed up with a large birthday cake for me. As it turned out, the party wasn’t as spontaneous as I had been led to believe. When I came back from a trip to the bathroom, I saw that the cake table was also covered with gifts. All for me. I was truly surprised, and to everyone’s astonishment, momentarily speechless.