I get so teary eyed and melancholy this time of year. I guess it's because school starts after Labor Day, summer is waning here in the northern hemisphere, autumn is peaking behind the clouds, with shorter days and colder weather and winter close behind.
But why does school starting bother me? I'm immune to the back-to-school sales that seem to generate a frenzy similar to the Christmas commercialization. I've bought two spiral notebooks for a quarter each. I should buy some scotch tape as well. It seems to be my children's number one choice of adhesion. Other than that there is nothing we need. It's really more than we need, since I reuse notebooks year to year and I own enough pens, paint, markers, crayons and chalk to recreate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in full scale. I laugh at the back to school ads and then hug my kids, happy to have them around for another school year at home.
I had your typical love-hate experience with school. I remember loving my teachers, hating the homework, loving art and music, hating math and social studies, loving being with my friends, hating that I wasn't allowed to talk to them during class and even at lunch sometimes. I absolutely hated having to ask to go to the bathroom, and learned to hold it in until I could get home in the afternoon. School was very stressful, but I acknowledge that most of that stress came from within. I had to get high marks, not because of my parents, but because of my own inner competition with myself. I struggled with health and weight issues, so I had an excessive need to fit in, to disappear in the crowd. I also had a terrible fear of being ridiculed by students and teachers alike. I might add that this did happen a couple of times, which only added to my need to blend into the background. Having asthma caused more than my fair share of sick days. I appreciated those days. I could read and draw to my heart's content and stories filled my head. Does that sound sad? I would rather be sick in bed than go to school. I don't know how much my parents were aware of this, so I'll repeat, it had nothing to do with my parents. I was a shy, sensitive girl and this was how I dealt with school.
Summer was my respite from the stress. I spent a lot of summertime just wandering around the backyard, daydreaming. I didn't mind being alone. My backyard was a stage for my imagination. I could make it a desert island, the ruins of an ancient city, an unexplored land. Sometimes I would set up my plastic animals to make a miniature safari park for my Matchbox cars to drive through. I imagined a crumpled cobwebbed crack in a concrete wall was a ghostly cave and that miniature people were exploring it. I would feed the spiders of those webs by roaming around the yard swatting flies just hard enough to knock them out (I had learned that spiders don't come out for dead bugs, even if you blow on the web). I would play with the chickens and later, when we had pigeons, I would take out the squabs and have my own little daycare group. I didn't have many friends in my neighborhood, which was fine with me. I preferred to play alone or one on one.
And then I would hear the crickets chirping loudly, and I would notice the cicadas, and suddenly it was Labor Day weekend again. And I felt the sadness of leaving my summer behind for books and writing cramps and homework. And since school is such an integral part of youth, my inner child still imagines that the end of summer is the end of fun.
I wonder how my children see this. Do they have any sense of division of seasons, months, days? We ease into our school year in the fall and by their birthdays we ease back out again. Sometimes the summer holds more activity than the rest of the year. Will the year be something endless and ever changing or will they have their own Labor Day weekend?