August comes up on me like one of Charles Dicken's ghosts in Scrooge. Probably most like the ghost of life to come. I reluctantly follow along knowing I won't like what's coming. I lived in Rochester, New York for thirteen years. I enjoyed a great deal of the surrounding environs, cultural opportunities, human service vibe, friends and family. Unfortunately, the seasons somehow had some sort of screw up when they divvied up and allotted time and Summer got the short end of the stick. Or it was confused by Spring. Spring in Rochester, attempts to make a bold announcement, but Winter doesn't give up easily and it is not unusual to spend Mother's Day in your winter woolies, shoveling the driveway. Spring tumbles into Summer, blink and you miss it. Fall behaves like a middle child or more aptly, the black sheep of the family. Occasionally it outshines all, seemingly without regard for anyone. Generally the risk of gaining that attention causes it to go underground by way of gray, cloudy skies submissively allowing Winter to step in and overshadow. Winter definitely won out in Rochester. August is very clear about this battle of the seasons and like a child raised in this seasonal dysfunction, I still don't trust August. I won't be fooled. I know it's coming and I know what it means.
I use to roll with summer and enjoy the spontaneity. The life and liveliness it brings. Flowers brightly peaking. Beaches, pools, sprinklers and chasing lightning bugs. Ice cream trucks, doubling up on bicycles and riding fast! Being barefoot. Sundresses, first kisses, rooftop parties. Summer, come what may, the living so easy.
I love the night sky of August, how close it appears and with it a sense of possibility and connection. Most constellations visible and identifiable. I loved to show these to my children when they were young and still amazed by me and the night sky. Can you remember being able to stay up that late? Or your first shooting star? I do. My parents brought their four antsy children upstate for a vacation. Away from Queens and the inner city we could see the night sky. It stayed with me. I passed it on, but I still look into the sky of summer and can feel my parents with me, and the wonder.
I am perhaps, in the mid to late summer of my life cycle. Autumn is not quite here but it is certainly calling to me. Maybe it's happening slightly prematurely. Or I just ended up on that end of the continuum. Some of my peers have preschoolers. I have a college graduate, a sophomore headed abroad for her Spring semester and a high school sophomore. I am struggling with the high school sophomore. Not him personally, more the distribution of seasons, so to speak. He seems to be getting a Rochester summer-type family. Sometimes it's fun and light. Sometimes almost non-existent. The journeys began by his older siblings seem to be pulling him away, quicker. This is hard to grapple with. I want him to have the “same” experience. I am beginning to understand this is impossible, as much as unnecessary. His experience will be important, thoughtful and valuable, just different. This is what happens in the summer of one's life-cycle. You start to actually believe what you have always known but refused to accept. You gain acceptance. You can't control what's going on. Your flowers can peak brightly, but ultimately the petals will start to brown and wither. All the miracle-gro in the world isn't going to change this. It may add a week or two, but it won't stop the process. I am coming to terms with my age. Albeit, reluctantly.
I went away earlier in the summer but had a hard time leaving my “kids”. I have left them before, but generally it has happened under the careful watch of a grandparent or two, or there were two young adults, no one was ever home alone. It wasn't normalized or typical. My husband found an amazing restaurant in Westport, New York. The Normandie Beach Club- great view, incredible food, great wait staff. The wait staff, as it turned out were prior students in a school where my husband was principal- three and a half hours south, infinitely small world that we live in. After the initial surprise, and small talk they asked about our children. I am certain that I sounded pathetic. I shared that we were up in the Adirondack's alone but my tone was not upbeat. The idea of being alone before, meant a romantic weekend. A break. This feels so different. It's difficult. Change. This was a huge change for me. It seems to be hanging over me like August in Rochester. I'm not ready or willing to get the sweaters and warmer clothes out yet. I don't want the extra blankets but like it or not I have no control over this.
What's next? What does it mean that I can leave my children, or that very soon they will all have “left” me? The feeling is palpable. They have tethered me to this earth, or at least my current location. They have given me purpose and very clear parameters. The sun came up every morning and went down each night. In the cycle of each day they have been at the center. This may seem a bit, shall we say, rectitudinous? That's not the intent. They had stability- breakfast, lunch, dinner, and I was able to provide this. Meals shared and for the most part, prepared with love or at least with a clear sense of nutritional value, some variety and almost always a degree or two of desirable palatability. Laundry was done, clothes were purchased, homework was overseen, projects guided, sports, music, creative events attended. Cookies baked, birthday parties thrown, scoldings delivered. Boo-boos kissed, hands held, eyes understanding and all-seeing.
I need to be tethered. I have this great propensity toward flight. Or at the very least that has been my belief of myself. The great winds of change are here, and I fear being blown away, or gliding along. Where may I land? (It is no surprise that the hurricane season is in the fall.) Change is a comin, and I need to find something to hold on to. Time to figure out how to batten down the windows and stay the course. Have I planted enough seeds to spread possibility and color into the lives of my children? Have my interests been interesting, will they sustain me? Can I, will I develop new ones at this point? Have I built a levee, that will protect the fragile, unknown shore of what is to be? I suppose I will find out, soon enough, and learn to roll with it. Creating toilet paper cozies has very little appeal even if I were equipped with the talent, but maybe I will be able to create something just as engaging. I may be wearing clunky Earth shoes to help keep me grounded on my way to the next phase or at least into the nearest arts and crafts supply store.
Change is a measure of time and, in the autumn, time seems speeded up. What was is not and never again will be; what is is change.
- Edwin Way Teale