Remains of the (Summer) Day(s)

Remains of the Day

“The evening’s the best part of the day” –Stevens, from Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro

Remains of the Day is narrated from the voice of an English butler, looking back on his life. And when he says, “The evening’s the best part of the day,” we as readers are bound to agree with him—all that nostalgia and English accent in his voice. It would be a sin to disagree with someone so upstanding and proper.

And as I sit watching the sun fall behind the trees and the houses and finally the pond on one of the final summer days, I too believe that evening’s the best part of the day. The flowers and grass and spiders are all highlighted with flattering sunlight, the world has gotten quiet as construction has ceased next-door, and the neighbors begin their strolls with dogs on leashes or children in wagons. It is peaceful, it is calming, and tomorrow’s worries are still a day away while we’ve already said goodbye to today’s uncertainties.

I know many have already said goodbye to summer—but the calendar has not, and I have not. Without the regular seasonal transition from summer to school, I’ve been left to squeeze out the summer days long past what would have been the first day of school. But tomorrow marks the beginning of my autumn: we’re going apple picking. And so, the remains of the day, the remains of the summer days, are here, and slipping away so quickly beyond those trees, houses, and finally, the pond.

What’s tricky about Stevens’ “The evening’s the best part of the day,” is that he is clouded with nostalgia. As he looks back on his professional career as a butler, he must look back and believe he did good work. He must believe that in his retirement, facing the end of his days, he did enough good work during his life to merit the evening, the final days, as being the best part. Or else, he could not live with himself so easily in these last days.

So can I say that this final summer evening is the best part of the summer? Of what remains of my day, my summer, can I call it the best of times? Only if I believe that what I have done this summer is worthy of this nostalgia; only if I believe that I have lived fully enough to be satisfied with my summer days. One can only let go of the past and face the present if he is satisfied with what his past reads like. I am satisfied with my summer. So, I am okay with letting it go the way of the sun and fade peacefully until next year. I will cherish the sunset this evening, knowing that so many of my summer evenings were spent in beautiful places, with wonderful people, doing incredible things. The evening is the best part of the day.

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~ by monifree on September 16, 2009.

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