School starts next week and a summer that was supposed to spread forever has been reduced to the stuff of montages: There is the trip to Disneyland. Here is that night on the beach. We are camping. There is family. There are friends. Hugs. Smiles. “Doctor Who” marathons. Dogs. Dolphins. Sand. The soundtrack is full of summer songs. Look how long we laugh.
The montage shows summer at its thickest. It fails to dwell on the long, thin line of late nights working, kids away for weeks at a time, and a home full of ants and heat waves. It cuts through parts that were boring enough the first time around, and also to the chase. All we know is that time has passed and rather than feel refreshed by the season we are tired, hot, and wondering what we missed.
Now are the days of preparing for school and everything is new and shiny—the backpacks are covered in cartoons and pop stars, the shoes are bright and begging for stains, and there are awkward steps into the pending fields of familiarity. The teachers are happy, and the classrooms all smell of promise and cleaning supplies.
With the new school year comes new milestones, each a step in the right direction, and behind us summer fades and slowly dies. That’s the thing about time, it is either appreciated like a lovely glass of plump, sweet wine, or it twists and shrivels, forgotten on the vine. Grapes and raisins. Apples and oranges.
I am not sure which event hits the hardest, the fact that my oldest is starting fourth grade or that my youngest will be in first. Both are more grown up than they have any right being.
Basically, while I may be technically ready for them to take their respective next steps, I am still slightly unprepared, and I always will be.
Fourth grade may be the first year that I remember fully. I discovered KISS, Reagan was shot, and girls, apparently, found a cure for cooties. However, I do not recall a need to be cute and cuddly, but that is exactly what I still need from my oldest boy. I am not ready for him to trade long hugs and holding hands for baseball cards and comic books.
First grade, until now, has always remained a blur of missing teeth, sweetness and light. It has always seemed small and tender. Suddenly, with my youngest intent upon its arrival, it feels big and bold, a landmark to melancholy.
First grade has a lot of nerve.
Despite my reluctance to accept the inevitable, there is also an air of excitement. Summer may be hard in the parting, but we have big plans for the school year ahead. There will be the stuff of textbooks, memories to last a lifetime, and endless laughter that grows from loud to louder.
It is going to make a wonderful montage.