Although by official records there is another month of summer on the calendar, my personal calendar reflects the truth of my life: only two weeks of summer remain. My recent trip to WalMart was further proof. School supplies are spilling from the aisles! I actually bought paper and glue so there is no doubt. I must soon go back to my other life.
I love teaching. I love my students and my colleagues. I even love school supplies. But the switch from languid summer days to life between the bells makes me sad.
I think about this every year. Summer used to be an endless, yawning void to be filled with swimming and picnics and brown peeling skin. Now swimming seems like too much travel and trouble because we no longer have our own pool. Picnics require planning and coordinating schedules. Brown skin is an invitation to another doctor’s appointment. Summer is no longer a season of leisure, but merely a brief few weeks of “summer projects” before I return to my other life. My own fault, but still cause for melancholy thoughts.
I suppose what I regret at the end of summer is relinquishing control again. My summer days are filled with choices, even if I do have several projects to complete. I decide what to do and when to do it. I still awaken before dawn in the summer, but I do it by choice. I like getting up before the heat of the day. I like watching the sunrise. Once school starts though, rising early is a necessity. There is no other choice or my classroom will be filled with children creating chaos while they wait for their tardy teacher.
I work hard during the summer. I rake and hoe and water the garden. I write for hours at a time. I clean closets and organize our life. I do community projects. But again, those are choices. If I wake up in a lazy mood I can postpone or cancel or just do less. Not so once school begins. There are daily and weekly and monthly tasks to be completed. There are routines to maintain and deadlines to meet.
The end of summer also marks a return to my grownup persona. In the summer I can wear any old t-shirt and go barefooted and sit on the front porch licking a Popsicle, oblivious to whether or not it drips on my shorts. Once school begins I’m “Mrs. Maurer”, teacher and role model. I feel an obligation to dress appropriately and act accordingly.
Roles, routine, responsibility- these are the burdens of fall. They are burdens I accept, burdens I once dreamed of and planned for, but burdens nonetheless. And in the greater scheme of things they are merely the burdens of life. I just have the luxury of setting mine aside for a few weeks each summer. Perhaps I should shake off my melancholy and rejoice in the next two weeks of freedom- leave my shoes in the closet and buy some extra Popsicles. A grand idea perhaps, but I’ll probably do what I always do…wallow a bit in the end of summer blues.