These last weeks have been like the story from The Berenstain Bears collection called Too Much Birthday.
Never heard of it?
Well, it goes a little something like this (or at least this is how my memory provides it to me). One of the little bears, probably Sister, is having a birthday and she just wants more and more and more. A bigger cake, more guests, more games. She’s a little glutton (to whom I can relate). But eventually, despite her initial tenacious persuasions, all that she was chasing falls apart and in the end she really just wants to go to bed. All the party guests leave and she’s suddenly with her family celebrating quietly and reflectively, enjoying the simplicity.
The end of Summer here is like planning for a big birthday, except every occasion turns into another birthday and another…and another. It’s Sister gluttony to the extreme.
Everything here shuts down. Everything. The shuttle stops running, the hotels close, the store shuts down, the tour companies leave, the planes stop flying. Everything stops mid September.
And so as each door closes there’s another Last Night to celebrate. The Restaurant shut down for the season and a huge Open Mic Goodbye Party erupted. The Bar closed and The Last Man Standing Party carried on late into the night.
And at each event it became noticeable that there were fewer and fewer faces.
The mass exit had begun.
Almost everyone who seasons here is gone and the year-long residents remain. The endless birthday bashes are over and it’s back to “real life”, to life before the Summer started and our sleepy little town became a bustling beehive of activity. Back to simplicity, to eating at home instead of eating out, to getting inventive to stretch what food or supplies you do have when you can’t resupply and no one is coming in to help, everyone is going out. It’s a strange feeling to be standing still and watching others stream around you heading in the opposite direction like a herd of buffalo. It’s unsettling, and feels as if you should be running too. But you stay put.
And, suddenly, just like The Bears, it’s just the family once again. People who’ve weathered all of the seasons together for years (and a newbie or two like me). It’s the family time after the big party.
The family of friends has gotten together almost every day this week. We’ve had dinners to celebrate a friend’s first moose kill which he’s generously fed us with every night of the week since his kill. We’ve had moose ribs which we were so big they made me feel like Wilma Flinstone, fried moose, grilled moose, moose over a bonfire, neck of moose, backstrap and more and more and more.
We’ve come together to play poker (a true sign that Summer has ended) and to celebrate a dear friend’s actual birthday. We’ve been out a lot but the energy around the celebrations no longer holds the Summer fervor. The intensity is gone along with the constant air of surprise in it all. There’s no longer the chance of meeting new people or running into tourists in our town which has taken on its ghost town feel once again. Familiarity and comfort and rhythm have returned.
Just in time for us to leave as well.
Yet, when we return and the ground is covered in snow and the quiet is upon us, the family will still be here or be returning as well. We will reconvene after seeing our loved ones down South and return to the North and to Winter and to our Northern family of friends.
Cheers to the end of the never-ending parties and to the start of the quiet here. I’m sure I’ll miss the Summer in the dark days of Winter but for now, I welcome the calm with open arms.
But first, to the South, to the Golden State.