Archive 2008 - 2019

A Day In June

by Violet Hughes


And what is so rare as a day in June?
By Violet Hughes
When the day occurred, we’d know it for sure, and from our neighboring clotheslines, we’d call out: “And what is so rare as a day in June? “  
It was our trumpet blare, our prelude to our own little annual celebration of the gift of a perfect day. It became a tradition, to choose the day most like the fabled ‘rare day in June’ that James Russell Lowell described in his Vison of Sir Launfal. Distinct as we two were in age and experience, on this subject we were simpatico.  With choreographed precision, we’d wake recognizing the rare day as it dawned spectacularly and certainly. Immediately, without planning or preparation we chose the anticipated day among the ideal days that heralded oncoming summertime. We’d know it by its ping, clear as Waterford crystal, and by its cool air, dry as the crusts left uneaten by rambunctious school children, (who, likewise, responded instinctively to a stirring call).
For years, we took pride and satisfaction in awarding Lowell’s paean to our choice of the perfect June day in Holliston, and declaring it a day of recognition and appreciation. The two of us, separated by generations and connected by a poem, would come together to recall and recount schooldays past when memorized poems were stored in rote accounts according to the old teaching style.   We laughed about the sizeable interest this saved poem had gained through the years. And there with an eye on the clotheslines, we enjoyed the profits of long past classroom toils.
Perhaps it was the poem’s King Arthur reference that quickened our sensibility so that we felt as privileged as royalty on such a day. Too easily, as if we were born to it, we‘d leave our laundry baskets and  sit in a bower of faded lilacs. Easy chatter, birdsong, rustling new leaves, skittering shadows kept us in thrall. Amid this splendor, tea seemed appropriate; she brought the Social Teas*; I brought the brewed Tetley.   And there in our connected backyards, we became thoroughly immersed in the storied legends of knights and ladies, castles and quests.
 Back then, she was the one with the white hair. Her eyes were startlingly brown, with a quality that made you want to stay close enough to absorb their gentle gaze. When I knew her she was retired after 50 years confined to a first grade classroom, and  she retained the nurturing qualities that defined her lifetime of care giving. (How many thousands flourished under her selfless attention? I imagine armies of pupils, better prepared for life’s battles as a result of her guidance). I once heard that they gave her a gold watch when she retired, but I never saw her wear it. 
 She took 2 trains and a horse drawn (?) carriage every Sunday back to her furnished room near her teaching post 18 miles away. On Friday evenings she’d return to the family home in Holliston, where she shared space and duties for nearly 90 Junes.
Over our annual teas, in dancing sunshine, she listened like a professional to my chatter, and modestly imparted firsthand knowledge about gardens and children and the town we both called home.  My favorite among her musings was her idea that the first Irish settlers chose Holliston because of our lake, which must have reminded them of the lakes they left behind. Keeping in stride with that thought, our literary period would shift from James Russell Lowell and his Visions of Sir Launfal  on to Robert Frost and the subjects of  fences and  good neighbors. We agreed -using as proof Holliston’s many perimeter walls – that those early Celtic settlers left a language written in ancient stones.
Steeped in simple pleasures, we lingered even as the shadows lengthened, savoring every morsel of the day. Not until the clarion call from the yellow convoy of returning school children grew immediate did we gather our dry clothes and fold away our fabled thoughts … for another year.
*Plain tea cookies commercially sold by Nabisco Co.