When I was a kid (back in the Dark Ages... ask my son if you don't believe me), the last day of school before summer vacation evoked a feeling of timelessness. For a brief moment, maybe a day or a week or two after school let out, I understood the concept of "eternity". THAT'S how long summer vacation would be. Endless weeks of no school, no bells ringing, no lunch lines, no homework, stretched ahead of me into the far distant future (meaning September.)
Then sometime around the beginning of August, things changed. You'd walk into the store (in my case, it was Winn's, a discount store at the shopping center a block away from my house) with your money to buy a cherry Slurpee and a bag of popcorn or a candy bar and you'd see big signs posted in the windows: "BACK TO SCHOOL SALE!"
It was enough to kill all desire for that cherry Slurpee.
Stacks of loose-leaf paper, spiral notebooks, yellow No. 2 pencils, boxes of Crayola crayons, bottles of Elmer's glue, blue and black Bic pens, and the ubiquitous "Big Chief" writing pads (do they still even make those anymore?) greeted you at the door and a thrill of panic would spiral down your spine. Summer was almost over! How did that happen? Didn't school let out just last week? As you walked home, your Slurpee melting in the summer heat, you thought about how much you wanted to do all summer with all your free time and how little time you had left to do it. And you dreaded hearing your mom say, "It's time to go shopping for school clothes!"
As the last few weeks of summer dribbled away, your definition of "eternity" suddenly changed from being something you eagerly anticipated (like Heaven, perhaps) to something that you absolutely feared (like... some other place, perhaps.) And if you were anything like me, at some point, during the last few days of freedom, the feeling changed somewhat. Dread turned into anticipation. A new school year. A new grade. A new homeroom teacher. New friends (and many old friends) to share your days.
One of the great things about being a "grown up" is that you no longer have that "back to school" dread (other than the sticker shock that accompanies buying your kids school clothes and supplies--and since when are Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer school supplies??), but neither do you have that eager anticipation of summer vacation (unless, of course, you're a teacher.) Work is work, summer and fall, winter and spring, day after day. There is no longer a clear line separating the seasons... you wake up one morning, like I did today, and realize that the seasons changed without much fanfare.
Whereas for the last few weeks, dinner was planned for what could go on the grill so as not to heat up the kitchen, now casseroles are being prepared. Windows that were opened wide at night to let in cool breezes are now half shut, if not completely closed. Sunrise comes a little later, sunset a little earlier. There is a subtle sense of needing more structure, more scheduling, more regimentation. A holdover from our school days? Maybe. Maybe deep down inside of us is that 10-year-old nudging us and saying, "Hey, remember all that stuff we were gonna do this summer? We'd better get to it before summer is over!"
So call those friends for a barbecue. Head to the lake for a weekend. Do whatever it was you were waiting all winter last year to do this summer. Because it's August and summer is almost over.
Just a few more weeks left to enjoy the back deck in the evenings....