Atrophy. If school wasn’t starting in two days, it certainly seems that would be the word of the week, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you how to spell it. Looking around the house, it is essentially a time capsule from June of 2010. The backpack is slumped in a corner where it was dropped on the last day of school. The fool-proof organizing system of boxes and document holders with which I am continually tinkering, still spews papers from the top, mocking my good intentions. Feeling entirely too much like an adult, I had to take pause this week and wonder, where did my summer, once so full of promise and untold delights…yes, THAT summer, go?
The last week of August already tends to be one of mixed emotions. The kids have dissolved into mini-delinquents whose sole purpose for punching each other is force of habit, but they shyly admit that they might indeed just be ready for regular school stuff. And while I fancy myself fairly footloose and moderately fancy free, I’m pretty stoked about having some structure reintroduced into our lives.
Faced with the reality of summer’s end, Jake shimmied out of one of his beloved baseball tees and into a collared shirt for school pictures this afternoon, followed by a peek into his new class. The glimmer of joy came when he realized he scored one of two air conditioned classrooms.
The glimmer disappeared with the school supply shopping. It should come as no surprise that when you’re shopping for pencils and paper, the biggest smiles are on the parents’ faces. You’ve seen the commercials. It’s totally true. Grown-ups chipper with anticipation, happily checking off otherwise mundane items from their lists.
“3-ring binders? Theeeeere they aaaaarre!” …this from a smiling cherubic woman with a Blue Tooth headset firmly in place and the lilting sing-song voice of Snow White. She was followed by a wincing teenager whose hands were shoved defiantly into his pockets.
All over the store, parents were holding up items, saying “which one?” enthusiastically trying to sell kids on the luxury of choice that they have in the color of their binder, their notebooks, their pencil case – offering perhaps a semblance of control in a situation where essentially, young students have little. Jake haphazardly pointed at the red, the blue, the black. It seems he would have been happy if we were picking out a leather office chair or fax machine…that’s where his attention was.
But now, as my tall funny fifth grader, and my cuddly sweet last-year-of-pre-schooler are not punching each other and tucked snugly into bed, I’m having a heck of a time being excited about launching into a new year without a firm grasp on what happened to the last 12 weeks? Where have we been that I didn’t finish the recipe project or paint the living room? How cute is it that I thought that I might?
Let’s see, the DVR sputtered out its last CSI weeks ago – dead of fatigue. (Killing your DVR with overuse doesn’t result in the prideful feeling you’d think it would.) When that noble piece of technology finally went, it took about 18 hours of stored treasures that I had reserved for the summer programming drought. So aside from the recent delicious start of Mad Men, I wasn’t near the TV like I usually am. Hmm…the evenings were too cold to lounge around outside and spray down the boys with a hose, though there were moments I considered it. And I’m just as far into The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo as I was in June.
Even my personal magazine pile has doubled. Have I really been that behind on Entertainment Weekly? Well, not entirely. I almost forgot to feed the boys dinner the day the fall movie preview issue arrived. And all those issues of The Economist? I did take the time to toss those, so that’s good.
So I did an exercise to get to the bottom of this mystery. Please, please, please don’t stop reading when I say this. OK, it involves Twilight, but it has a point. During the 9 hours of special features on the DVD that I watched as happily as I did the actual movie, the screenwriter, Melissa Rosenberg said she read the first book in a single sitting, focused on the scenes & images that stood out from this initial read – and then structured the screenplay around those. So I did the same thing, but to rediscover the highlights of a season past.
Melodramatically closing my eyes…I flitted back to the ill-advised but glorious Dunkin’ Donuts breakfast in Las Vegas. The 4th of July fireworks over Disneyland. Sitting in the theater watching Eclipse with my friend Margie and a gaggle of really rowdy and inappropriate mothers. My friend Megan making me dinner in my own kitchen, and having a mom talk with the little one when I was just too tired to do it myself. Jacob jumping himself silly on a trampoline for his 10th birthday. Trying and failing to get our hands on chocolate covered bacon at the State Fair. The butterflies in my stomach when my handsome husband appeared on the escalator at the airport, finally home from Zimbabwe. The sinking feeling I had when I realized the gifts he brought the boys were two vuvuzelas. The plotting of where I could accidentally lose two vuvuzelas. A couple of great end-of-summer parties with old friends, and new friends, and many many appetizers. And then there was starting this blog, which during the nail-biting hemming and hawing stages of discernment about it, felt kinda self-indulgent, overly revealing, a little brave, a tad silly, and maybe a little bit cathartic.
And so now I will post this piece, walk by the backpack and filing system, and hop into bed with the triumphant posession of a summer well-spent. I suppose there are worse things than atrophy of housecleaning.