On School Starting So Soon

It took our family a long time to transition into summer. Now that we’ve finally settled into a rhythm to our days, summer is winding down. The tomatoes are ripening on the vine, the air is cooling off at night, the university students are coming back, and it’s almost time for the kids to go back to school.

In the meantime, Bill Clinton just celebrated his 64th birthday, Dr. Laura dropped the N-word bomb eleven times and is now resigning from radio (true confession: when I worked as an ESL teacher in Atlanta and commuted from Little Five Points to Buford Highway I listened to Dr. Laura every day. And I loved it. We don’t agree on anything, she and I, but I appreciate her insight, her brutal honesty, and the way she insists callers take responsibility for their own lives. Another true confession: I like to play blackjack and drink rye), and Julia Roberts has starred in the worst movie adaption of a book I’ve seen since “Under the Tuscan Sun” (remember how badly done that one was? Spend your money on “The Kids Are All Right” and skip “Eat Pray Love.”)

Baby Leone, with her pudgy belly and four-toothed smile, is a little Buddha in our lives spreading kindness and goodwill. She pats my back with her open palm as I carry her through town. We walk by strangers who are hurrying along in their busy, lonely, stressful lives. Their faces suddenly lighten as Leone babbles her hellos. Even the gas station attendant, surreptitiously smoking a fag, fingernails cracked and hands stained with grease, smiles at Leone.

She tolerates all our kisses with good humor and a bemused look. Her skin is so soft and she smells so sweet that I wish I could bottle her essence. My friend Jenny just had a baby and her little guy is so tiny, a warm bundle with dark serious eyes. Next to him Leone is a titan.

Maybe the best way to accept change is to stay in the moment, to inhale the smell of my youngest daughter without worrying that one day soon, like her 11-year-old sister, she might shrug off my hugs.

And to enjoy the other kids exactly where they’re at: my 6-year-old in all his rowdy affection eager to play with kids his own age but shy about meeting new people, delighted to be read to but adamant that he is not going to learn to read; my 9-year-old fledgling who studies her face in the mirror and asks me if she’s pretty, bikes the mile to her “job” as a junior counselor by herself, and sneaks off to her room to read when there are too many people in the house; and my graceful, self-possessed, detail-oriented firstborn whose consideration towards other is matched by her lack of consideration towards me.

I am spoiled by sunshine. I dread the cold and the dark that comes with winter. Instead of worrying that school is starting so soon, though, I will try to just be where I am right now and savor these last days of summer.


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