It's fall today. Not just on the calendar, but I can tell by the wind, the way the air smells. How the ice cream truck suddenly sounds forlorn and distant, making its regular rounds, as if nothing is changing. It must know that its days are numbered.
I'm ok with that. I have always loved autumn. It may have something to do with the nomad blood in me, the desire to change things up every so often, that I welcome a new start. Or maybe I'm still the same little kid who froths at the mouth over new school supplies. Who knows. But everyone is rested, relaxed and bored enough to get back to reality, including me. I think even people who do not have the luxury of a summer vacation must feel that those couple of months are different.
I love the crazy, mad rush at the end of August to get it all together again. It seems that no one is ever prepared; the end of summer hits us as if we had no idea it was coming. Oh my God! School starts next week and I haven't done one single thing I said I would! We panic at the prospect of the kids going back to school without the perfect package of pens and pencils and squeaky new sneakers. The kids, on the other hand, at least mine, couldn't care less. I'm the one popping Xanax because he refuses to use any other backpack than the one he got in second grade. Because I'm setting a record, Mom. I'm gonna see if I can get all the way through high school with it. Cool, huh? Oh, yes. Way cool.
This year, I am not fighting him. He's fourteen and starting high school. It's time to let go.
You want to wear those black and red shorts with that purple and neon yellow shirt? With the blue and white crew football socks and sandals? Well, sweetie, I think that looks just great. No, I don't think you need to touch your hair. Those little cowlicks sticking up all over, I believe, are really in this year. Can I at least wash the backpack? Because it smells like seven years of boy. And will you just take this one pencil on the first day and try to write important things down?
I didn't cry as I sent him off on the first day. I took a gazillion pictures - yes, at the bus stop - but I didn't cry. And when he broke his arm on the second day of school, putting him on the bench for the entire football season, I didn't over-baby him. He's fourteen. There is nothing more awkward than your mom helping you take your shirt off. I can do it, Mom. Stop.
And I know he can. He can do it all, I think. I look at him, and I wonder how he became this young man. In spite of me. In spite of the world around him, how did he hold on to that electric smile he beamed as a naive baby? How is it that he still sees every glass as half full, finds good in everything? When I am definitely not that person, is he just balancing me? Is that my gift from God, that this kid will keep me in check when my molehills become mountains? Maybe so.
Last night he wanted to "hang out" with some friends. It was 9:30 and dark outside. I wondered, what do you mean, hang out? What does that mean? Where? Why? It's dark! You should be inside!
And then, as quickly as it panicked me, it passed.
These are the dog days of summer and the most exciting new chapter of your life is opening up to you. Of course you can hang out. You should hang out.
Be home by 11:00.
Make good choices.
I love you.