Summer ended with a bang. There was a party, a wedding, and–no, thank goodness, not a funeral–but a quiet retreat to Martha’s Vineyard.
Now I’m settling back into Cambridge, Massachusetts. The French have a term for this transition: la rentrée. It’s the re-entry, or return, after summer break. In France, la rentrée is associated with traffic jams as vacationers make their way from the countryside back into the cities, and the start of the school year. Having a term for this shift helps in acknowledging the upheaval that often accompanies it. For me, la rentrée came later than usual this year. It stirred up a tangle of emotions. Feelings of sadness over the end of one season swirled with a sense of anticipation about the new one.
In Cambridge and Boston la rentrée takes on a distinctive character. An influx of U-Haul trucks and students has already taken place. Now we’re dealing again with snarled traffic and searching for parking spaces, scoring a table at popular restaurants, and dodging salespeople who are offering perks to anyone who opens a bank account. Granted, these are not significant challenges at a time when major weather disasters and political dangers abound. Last week, one highlight of my re-entry was attending a protest against ending the DACA program. Professors locked elbows and blocked traffic on Massachusetts Avenue outside Harvard Yard. Over 30 were arrested. (You can read the full story here.)
On a lighter note, I regained my bearings to the neighborhood by going to—you guessed it— a farmers’ market. That’s always my touchstone, whether visiting a new place or rentréeing to a familiar one. The Charles Square farmers’ market takes place on Friday afternoons and Sunday mornings throughout the growing season. Food stalls spread out in a plaza adjacent to the Charles Hotel. The market attracts a regular crowd of local residents and their dogs as well as passersby who are visiting the area.
September and October are the best months for New England produce. Summer’s bounty melds with the fall harvests. Peaches glow in mottled shades of pink and white like faces on Rembrandt portraits. Eggplants dazzle in their royal purple robes. Beans come short and long, some striped pink and others solid green. Late-harvest corn yields center stage to the new crop of stars: vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh-picked apples. Oh, the variety!
I fill my bags and market basket. Conversations happen easily with shoppers and sellers, and I get excited thinking about what I will cook with my haul of produce. The pangs of la rentrée dissipate. It feels good to be back.