As an academic and a mother, I think of the year as running from September to June, even though the number changes in January. I’ve never been good for dates anyhow, and am much more likely to say, “Allison was in 6th grade,” than “It was 1997.” Numbers don’t help me put my life in context so much as context does.
I was a nerd, which is no surprise I guess, so going back to school didn’t devastate me—I had lots of reasons to love it—new notebooks and pens and clothes, but giving up summer did and does almost physically hurt. No matter how long summer feels for a child, or how much I crammed in as an adult, summer always has the sense of being ripped away from me, while I’m clinging on and yelling out, “I’m not ready.” I’m the kid on the beach with the wrinkled fingers and toes, blinking in stunned bewilderment when mom and dad say it’s time go home.
When my children were young, I used to feel like the only mother who was sad to see them go back, to miss them all day. My kids went to a very small grade school to which I walked them in their younger years and I would stand on the playground with the other parents as the kids were led in class by class, watching them until the very edge of their backpacks would disappear through the doorway, glad the day was bright and I was wearing sunglasses.
I’m starting my eighth year at Drexel and I really appreciate the transition period Drexel’s schedule affords me—classes don’t start for us until Sept. 23. The fall equinox occurs, and then we go back to school. It’s perfect and makes more sense than being jammed into shoes with laces and burdened with heavy backpacks when it is, by all rights, still summer, with all its connotations of ease and light.
The space between Labor Day and the last week of September gives me time to transition. I’m not ready to switch from watermelons to pumpkins. Back off on the the Gobbler, Wawa.
Collingswood’s Farmer’s Market helps ease the transition as well. It runs all the way up until the weekend before Thanksgiving, helping me to keep up the delusion that life is still going on, things are still growing, the colors are not simply having their one last fireworks blast before they fade out, and that I will not suffer from such bad SAD that I will want to die every day between January and late March. I go to the market every Saturday through November and buy all the apples, in all the colors, and tell myself they are as good as the Jersey white peach. They’re not, but the honeygold comes close.
I try to take this moment to sit back a second, assess, to simply… pause.
As I do this psychic deep breathing, I try to think of reasons to be happy that summer is over—or at least accepting of it—and here are a few I’ve come up with:
1. No. More. Mosquitos.
2. No sweat: When summer ends, I only have to sweat when I pay to sweat, like at hot yoga and spin classes. It’s controlled and I don’t have to speak in front of a group immediately afterwards, or during.
3. No chub rub: Margaritas by the pool add up. ’Nuf said.
4, a. No more white pants. I hate white pants so much I don’t even like to see them on anyone else. I’ve got nothing against nurses, but when I see a sea of white pants, hospitals are all I can think about—geriatric centers, the insane asylum in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. For me, white pants are never a good choice for anyone, and I am glad to see (the vast majority of) them go.
4, b. No white shoes. Buh-bye. Buh-bye! White shoes are for sneakers, flip flops (bite a knuckle) and that’s it. Remember the rule: No white shoes after Labor Day, and now forget the rule that you are “allowed” to start wearing them on Memorial Day.
5. No more being passed by girls riding their beach cruisers in bikinis while I ride my Farmer’s Market basket tricycle in capris. (See No. 3 and paragraph No. 6 above.)
6. Ryan Gosling is likely to grow his beard back. Sigh.
7. We won’t have to hear anyone say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity,” for months!
8. Christmas is coming. (Yes, Christmas is a lot of errands and emotional, work but it’s still Christmas. Try to think of Christmas time, as the retailers would have us do, rather than a single day.)
9. We won’t be subjected to seeing ugly feet in uglier sandals.
10. Plenty of Woodchuck Apple Cider (Oops! See No. 3.)