After dark the traffic picked up. More station wagons came out of the cover of all the low pine trees that had beaten down by the winds. Some of the cars went for the Sagamore Bridge and some went for the Bourne Bridge and they were all leaving Cape Cod.
They were all leaving summer behind. Those of us who lived there knew that the best days on the Cape, those brilliant early fall days would soon unfurl like an improbably large flag.
And it is much the same here in Coronado, California where this afternoon I am looking out my window and admiring an improbably large flag fluttering at the end of a slip at the yacht club.
It is a day of the year when the past comes calling.
Those old orange New York license plates on those old station wagons, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles and Plymouths lumbering back over the Cape Cod Canal and folding into a night parade along Route 6 to Fall River. Laboring through the labyrinth of Providence, rolling down along the Connecticut Turnpike into Fairfield County and beyond.
Farther and farther into the night, farther from shingled cottages and fried clams. Sand on the floor mats that would still be there at Christmas.
Everyone else in the car slept. Radios half the width of the dashboard purred. Ashtrays the size of bricks filled up. Windows were cracked open, the city always arrived more quickly than it should have, and whatever it was that was left behind could always be remembered.
One of my summer friends and his wife pulled out of Coronado yesterday morning, off to one of their other two homes. He is 84, and last week I asked him if living in three different places sped up or slowed down the passing of time.
“Neither,” he said after some consideration. “But I like always having something to look forward to.”
I know what he means. It will be good to see him here next summer. And it will be good for fall to settle in here along the coast, where the last big weekend of the season lulls us back into summers past.