Monday, September 2, 2013

August and Everything After

It's the night before school starts, and I'm sitting in my office in the dark. Windows open, crickets chirping, my camera charging next to me. I'm sad to see summer go and fairly befuddled to see it go so soon. Maybe it was the two-weeks-in-Europe or the sort-of-crappy weather, but I never felt like we got into a groove this summer. I don't remember many hot, lazy expanses of time that we could fill any way we pleased. (There were some, I'm sure, and I was probably annoyed by them and tried to fill them when they occurred.)

So all weekend, I've been feeling a little stunned. A little emotional. A little desperate for the girls to leave tomorrow so I can finally think a thought or write a sentence without being interrupted -- "Mom! Mom? Moooooommmm?!?" -- every thirty seconds. A little panicky about how long it will be before they burst back into the house in the late afternoon. Their little outfits are lying on their bedroom floors, their new lunch bags and water bottles are waiting on the counter, their backpacks are hanging on the hooks in the mudroom. They're ready, even if I'm not.

This weekend, though, I've been replaying all the good things that we crammed into this past month. We jumped big waves with my parents at the beach. We spent a long weekend in a tent on the Leelanau Penninsula at a campground with a yoga instructor and got to soak in the sun at our favorite sandy spots. We ate at House of Flavors in Ludington, swung at the lake in Manistee, hiked through the Nordhouse Dunes to water, cozied into a booth at Harmony, ate Pronto Pups with cousins in Grand Haven, biked to Jersey Junction, made peach and blueberry crisp a half-dozen times. We spent a weekend at the cabin, playing cornhole and fishing off the dock and eating Pop Tarts for breakfast and reading in camp chairs. We went to the block party, had lemonade stands, hosted cousin sleepovers. We ate breakfast and drank coffee on the side porch. We played frisbee and baseball in the front yard. We tried to spend every possible minute outside.

This weekend, we stuck close to home: did laundry, mowed the yard, went running at the track a couple times, had friends over to watch Michigan football. We went to the home football game on Thursday night. Jason smoked a brisket and played guitar one afternoon, and we gobbled up the new downtown market two different days (tonight: filet, potatoes, cauliflower, and fresh tomatoes with goat cheese plus Love's ice cream on our crisp - all from the market. Swoon.). We picked peaches at Crane's yesterday, then spent the rest of the day at Pier Cove beach, where Annie made an elaborate castle and Jemma swam and swam until she was completely worn out. It was hard to walk back up the steps to the car and brush the sand off my feet; who knows the next time my toes will be in Lake Michigan?

Tonight we ate outside, and the girls donned sweaters (and Jemma, a hat), and I couldn't help but feel like it was the end of the season, and the end of an era. Tomorrow, when I leave them at school, I have plenty of work to come home to. I have meetings on the calendar and deadlines to meet and content to assign. I have a new computer system to master and a desk full of papers that need to be dealt with. Next summer, most likely, I'll be a "working mom," with some childcare juggling and at least a few days of the girls heading off to something sunny and fun while I edit articles or talk on the phone. I'm excited about my new gig - it's challenging and interesting work that matters in at least some small way to this community - but I feel a little wistful about "the good old days," when the girls were so small and the days unfurled at such a slow pace that I thought kindergarten would never, ever come. Tomorrow: first and fourth grade. Locker decorations. People who want to borrow my earrings and bring purses to school.

Ten years ago, I was starting my last fall as a teacher. I was training for the Chicago marathon and thinking (but only just) about becoming a mother. Tonight, I'm so glad for this strange, not-quite-normal summer (older kids, new job, PARIS), and my photos show a riot of color and joy these past few months. I wish I could slow it down, and I'm sure going to miss it.