I’m not great with transitions. I like to act all proud and adventuresome as if nothing rattles me, as if shifting friendships, locations, jobs, schools is nothing to fret over. But really, I noticed our mail carrier is different this week and I am sort of sad.
Pick your cliche, phrase it however you want, the reality we all know is that life changes.
August is ripe with changes. From the waning of my early summer garden crops to the fact that we’ve picked the last stalk of corn, to the start of school.
My oldest dashes off to first grade in less that one week. Armed with new markers, pink erasers and a Star Wars lunchbox he will head out the door toward a full-day of education on Monday. He shed a few tears when we chatted about the lunchroom. Me, mostly afraid he will get overlooked or bullied at a lunch table. Him, fearful for similar reasons but mostly because “the lunch room is really smelly.” We’ve talked about recess, new teachers and taking his old little soul and opening it up to new friendships. I get teary typing about it.
August bums me out. I start cherishing every last moment in my flip flops. I cling tightly to pool passes that will be defunct come Labor Day. I try desperately to make too-small swimsuits and almost-empty bottles of sunscreen last just a few more weeks. I eye popsicles at the grocer and wish it was June so that I might stock the fridge with them and live for the July 4th holiday. I’m sad that “looking forward to vacation” is no longer a phrase we use.
I open my closet and stare at my pile of jeans, wondering fearfully if any of them still fit. Seems I’ve been flitting about all summer in a swimsuit and elastic shorts. Too many hot pretzels at the pool can screw your shot at denim come fall. I start to panic that all the good Halloween costumes will be gone in a week.
But my heart also finds freedom in this shift. I am reminded of what is important. I sink deeper into a little cocoon of family these last weeks, realizing that the best gift I can give my kid is not a social network that can rival Oprah’s or even jockeying for a good teacher. The best gift I can give him is my presence, my support, memories of time in the backyard and hugs at home. A safe launching pad from which to send him this year with glue sticks and scissors and in another ten, with chemistry textbooks and hormones.
So I remind myself, as they hang on me all sweaty and messy, as they step on my toes (that are exposed because I wear the flip flops I cherish so much), that pumpkins and harvest and apples are coming. That first grade will be both here and gone in a blink. And that playing Uno on the family room floor with a bag of Skittles is all anyone needs on a sunny Wednesday afternoon.
So, as you send yourself or your tots off into fall, may you still enjoy your flip flops, the remaining popsicles, and may your jeans still fit come September. But most of all, may you remember the powerful way a family can launch a child into relationships, education, community and beyond with a little extra love and hugs from home.