Our family had a lovely summer. We traveled, we took entertaining day trips, saw friends and spent quality time with relatives. You’d think it would have been hard to leave August in the rearview mirror. But was I mournful when the clock struck 12:01 am on September 1?
Hell, no. I was sleeping.
Honestly, I could barely contain my excitement when the girls returned to school. As memorable and enjoyable as our summer was, the girls were bouncing off the walls by the time September rolled around. Sophie was perpetually “bored.” Chloe procrastinated down to the wire to finish a large summer assignment for her art class, which obligated the rest of us to absorb her stress by osmosis.
Every year, when the girls hop on the school bus for the first time after the summer hiatus, fall becomes my new favorite season for a few glorious weeks. The feeling of sending the children you cherish to their respective hallowed halls of learning for seven precious hours every day is nothing less than awesome [italicized to emphasize the singsongy inflection with which I’d say the word aloud in the course of a conversation with other equally jubilant parents].
For the first few weeks post-return to school, I experience feelings of freedom and lightness that manifest themselves when I do things like:
(1) Binge-watch for-mature-audiences-only TV series (“Masters of Sex” and “The Leftovers” and “Transparent” – I’m talking about you!) in the middle of the day. Even better, go to the movies by myself in the middle of the day and eat popcorn on my own goddamn terms.
(3) Fold three pieces of laundry – the easy stuff, like towels or underwear – followed by an hourlong break to read or surf the Internet or binge-watch aforesaid for-mature-audiences-only TV series. This cycle repeats itself at least several times, until dinner needs to be prepared and I realize all of the clothes remain unfolded on the dining room table.
(4) Pretend to organize my desk area. My paper shredder, which sits under the desk, has become my best machine friend. Perhaps too much of a friend. In my eagerness to feel like I’ve accomplished something useful, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve shredded something I should have filed away. Oops. I’ve also perfected the art of the “paper shuffling for posers” routine. I can shift around piles of paper like nobody’s business. And I’ve mastered the priceless skill of fooling myself into thinking I’ve decluttered when in fact I’ve simply put the papers in an overpriced, yet attractively designed file folder I bought at The Container Store.
(5) Run around the backyard like an idiot while playing fetch with Truffle. Even though the dog doesn’t go to school and there are days I wish I could push his furry butt on the bus with Sophie, having him around isn’t particularly taxing. Let’s face it, he doesn’t judge me for doing any of the things I’ve listed above. Dogs are truly great, I tell you.
(6) Meet friends for lunch and commiserate about feeling-guilty-but-who-are-we-kidding-we-don’t-feel-guilty-at-all that our cherished children are BACK IN SCHOOL.
As the end of September approaches, however, and autumn officially begins, those feelings of freedom and lightness subside. The decline starts when the days grow ever shorter, which serves as a reminder that as much as I enjoy fall, fall leads to winter. And that fact puts a damper on my joy. The happiness that defines the weeks leading up to October slowly evaporates into the “I kinda, sorta wish it were summer again” blues.
This yearning to return to the dog days of summer manifests itself most acutely when:
(1) I am rudely awakened at 6:15 am five days a week by a 13-year old who, although of average weight and height, stomps up and down the stairs like a rhinoceros on steroids.
(2) Sophie announces – every other day – that none of the food we have in the house is suitable for her breakfast meal. None.
(3) The girls moan and groan about their homework and become increasingly agitated when they realize that their highly educated parents haven’t a clue about how to solve the poorly worded questions in their math textbooks. “Forget it, Mom! You’re useless. I’ll just do it myself. How can you not remember what the congruent complements theorem is?” Well, f**k you, too, evil spawn.
(4) I spend more time in my car shuttling the girls around town after school than I spend binge-watching my for-mature-audiences-only TV series.
(5) I start dreading the imminent return of those dastardly school projects I abhor more than almost anything else having to do with the kids’ schools, including the PTA.
(6) It occurs to me that I’m in deep shit if I’m already dreaming about next summer when we’re only 11 days into fall.