These last few weeks of August are always jam-packed with breathtakingly poignant reminders that summer is waning and the back-to-school season is nearly upon us. The sound of the cicadas, the ever-so-slight change in the slant of the sun, the way nightfall gently creeps up on you, the obnoxious school supply displays at Target; all of these things are like a deafening clock ticking its way down to the end of the season.
I was talking to my mom on the phone today and she was getting nostalgic about the days when it was her three children returning to school at the end of the summer, ridding the house of our endless yelling, running, asking to be fed, and tv watching. She tells me now, at age 71, that she was always depressed to see summer end because she loved having us home, loved the routine of packing us lunch and heading off to the East Denver YMCA for hours of swimming and sun. She says the house was too quiet come September. This recollection of hers is completely and utterly mystifying to me. Everything about my childhood memories indicates she would have been ecstatic to be rid of us but somehow, this elderly lady my daughter calls Grandma claims it was only with a heavy heart that she wished us all well on the first day of school. Well, I’ll be damned.
My mom’s account just makes me feel guilty because I have never tried to hide the fact that I am beside myself with joy watching my daughter ride away on that bright yellow bus on the first day of school. I start counting down the days til school starts immediately upon arriving home from our New York vacation. My mind races desperately as I review the remaining weeks of the summer break, trying to think of ways to keep Martha busy and create windows of time when I can accomplish something that feels remotely fulfilling. How is it that I have become the evil, wicked mother who can barely tolerate 12 hours of free time with her child whereas my mom is the sweet and benevolent queen of good mothers who adored the sounds and sights of her three children to the point of heartbreak when they returned to their mandatory academic routine?
I’ll tell you how: that woman clearly suffers from some kind of wacky, time-lapse-induced delusion. And I’m pretty sure I am not generally evil or wicked but merely exhausted from my intense, albeit sporadic, efforts to be awesome-super-cool-fun-mom.
And, where I will admit to loving the relaxed pace of the summer and the heat of the sun beating down on my bare skin, I also have to admit that I tire of the song and dance my daughter requires to remain entertained during the summer. That’s part of the heartbreak for me; I do love summer but I also love back-to-school. You gotta take the bad with the good and unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to change with the season.