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Christmas in August

August 13th, 2003 · 1 Comment

Take the ferry to Bainbridge Island on a Wednesday night in July or August. Walk off the boat and wander along the waterfront path to Eagle Harbor Park. This is what you’ll see….

Familes and friends clustered together on blankets and chairs, in a semicircle around an outdoor stage. People eat pizza, mysteries from take-out cartons and various picnic goodies. The more ambitious diners come early to reserve a table and bring white tablecloths and candles, homemade berry pies and wine. Children dancing on the grass: girls in flowery sundresses and sandals, picturesque summery outfits, braids and white lace. Tots waddling in diapers and babies carried on chests. Kids run up and down the strip of forest behind the stage, calling to each other, looking for each other.

On the stage, painted white and blue and shaped like a boat, beneath a banner advertising the sponsor – either the city or the parks department – a band plays from 7 to 8:30, someone mumbling into the microphone between songs. Last week a woman wearing a straw hat with her paisley skirt and blouse sang jazz tunes. This week it was a group of young men playing dulcimer, bass, banjo and drums. As one friend commented, who knows how these teenage guys were inspired to take up dulcimer, but they rocked the strings as best they could.

Kis pop up and down like popcorn, grownup and kids alike spinning, twirling each other under the summer night sky. The sounds of skateboards and skaters whizzing on the pavement paths. The sound of applause, hands clapping. Conversation and laughter. Lightheartedness. Happiness.

We walk through the crowd, seeing old friends. We’ve lived here long enough now that I have forgotten some names but remembered faces. And we meet new friends too.

Last week a boy in a tie-dyed shirt and striped pants turned two. Clusters of colored balloons marked the corner of the park where the celebration began. Cakes and goodies covered two picnic tables. Some of the celebrants were friends of ours from childbirth class and playgroup; picnic nights are a great time to greet each other, catch up on the kids.

This week a father – and friend of ours – began blowing bubbles, not the tiny circles that are made with a dime-sized circle of plastic wand – but beautiful shimmering blobs that would quiver and float in mid-air before bursting into soap bits. Crowds of children, enchanted, gathered around him, watching him wave his magic wand of PVC pipe and cord.

We see our neighbors. Yeah, sure we can see our neighbors by walking down the street, but its something else to meet and hang out at the park together. One girl in the neighborhood – the only other girl Abigail’s age – often comes to with her mom and older sister. She and Abigail like to run through the forest and dirt together. My daughter takes her socks off on the carpet at home and a pile of dirt pours out. Now both of our two older girls like to go in the woods when we come to the concerts on Wednesday night. Tonight I found Abigail up there, standing in a patch of bushes, watching the other kids run past her.

I realized last week that there is something about a Wednesday night concert at the park that feels like a holiday to me. It feels like Christmas in August. A special season, two months of holidays. And I realized that this is one of the few times in our culture where we take the time to gather together. We make time for each other. We say hi, smile and play. Distances disappear. We define ourselves as islanders and friends, creating community. We dance with each others children. We eat and enjoy the sweetness of summer together. We share life. We give each other the best gift. It is Christmas indeed.

Tags: island

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Anita's LOL // Aug 17, 2003 at 7:46 am

    Julie Leung Christmas in August

    I really like Julie Leung’s portrait of the community concerts she goes to on Bainbridge Island during the summer.