It’s back to school time. The time of the year when parents gleefully post pictures of themselves jumping for joy as their children shuffle off for their first day.
But not me. I’ve been dreading tomorrow since the minute the final bell rang in June.
Maybe it’s because I mark the passage of time by the school year instead of the calendar year.
Maybe it’s because my oldest is 10 now which means I only have 8 summers left with him at home. I have fewer summers left than I have had and as each one ends, my heart is heavier than it was before.
Maybe it’s because my dad died on a July day three years ago and so the smell of salt air will always be inexorably linked with death and life. A reminder to hold close to those you love.
Or maybe it’s just that summer is free from the reason and obligation that dominate the other 9 months of the year, amplified by warmer temperatures and the heady smells of suntan lotion, chlorine, and french fries from the snack bar. In the summer you sit a little closer, talk a little longer, giggle a little louder, dream a little bigger, and love a little harder.
And I am enveloped with melancholy when it comes to an end, fearful that with every passing summer, they will start to slip away.
Today, on our last day of summer, we went to the beach, just the four of us. The wind was gusty and the waves were roiling. It was not what Jack expected. It did not fit in his plan of how the day would go.
I watched as he gave in to his disappointment. Exacerbated by anxiety about the new school year and melancholy that summer was ending, it wound tighter around him until he couldn’t find a way past it.
I got it. We’ve all been there – so caught up in our disappointment at what the moment is lacking that we can’t see the joy of what we have.
And I knew what he needed. I knew because it was exactly what I needed.
Will did too. And with only a fleeting look exchanged between us, we took his hands and dragged him into the surf agsinst his will so he could get knocked down by the waves, pulled and pushed and tossed in the current, until all he could do was feel instead of think.
When we finally emerged from the waves, bedraggled, exhausted, and happy, he fell into my lap and said “You always know what I need.”
And that was what I needed. A reminder that the passing of time will never take them away from me.
That I will always be home to them. Regardless of the season.
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