I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with summer. Mostly love. The hate comes in to play when I think of the its predictable ending. Sheesh. That’s a glass half empty.
One time I counted up the number of summers I had spent anxiously awaiting the start of the school year after it had ended in June. You know I’ve had a long history of the school year/summer vacation pattern – Kindergarten through college (1963-1983), my own kids’ school years (1995-2010), ending with my 36 year career in schools (1983-2019). That’s 56 years of summer vacations. Every year, as school came to a close and with the anticipation of summer in front of me, it always felt that summer would last forever – I’d eternally lounge by the pool, vacation in tropical or mountainous locations, read books, bbq chicken and corn on the cob, and complete all the house projects I’d put off all school year long. There was such a sense of hope and renewal as the school year came to a close.
You can already tell how this story is going to end. Yes, as a family we vacationed, we played in the community pool, we might even have read some books and completed a few household projects, but as June became July and July became August (and they kept starting school earlier and earlier in August)…I always started to feel an emotion that I wasn’t used to and eventually came to understand was depression. At the root of that feeling was the awareness that I did not want our lazy days of summer to end. I didn’t want to end my months of being a “stay-at-home” mom. I hadn’t finished the projects. I dreaded the return of the hectic pace of school and work. I HATED having less time to just be with my kids. I NEEDED MORE TIME!!! (For my year-round working friends – I know how annoying that must sound.) I eventually figured out that if I just watched a REALLY sad movie and cried…then I could move on and allow the inevitable anticipation and excitement of the upcoming “new” year to start seeping into my bones.
As an aside, the feeling of anticipation comes from one of the odd benefits of working in schools. I think very few careers offer a “do over” EVERY year. You get to learn from your mistakes. You get a start over and be better…every year! Thus EVERY YEAR, there is a unique new excitement for the opportunity to “get it right” – if there is such a thing as getting it right. So predictably, as we approached August, the planning and preparations for the new year intensified, school shopping began, the pool became “boring”, and the excitement for the new year returned.
Since retirement (2019), I have a new relationship with summer. As Glen says – “Retirement is six Saturdays and a Sunday”. You could also say “Twelve Julys”. In August of my first year of retirement, I had a real sense of loss without the anticipation and excitement of the upcoming school year. I had those famous “teacher first day of school dreams/nightmares” . I dreamed that I was unprepared, not good enough, late, lost, wearing inappropriate clothing, etc. (Freud would have a hay day with “teacher” dreams.) I longed to be back with colleagues and see the happy and nervous smiles of students...for about a minute! Then I relaxed back into the slow pace of summer and actually enjoyed all of August!
So here we are in Brooklyn during my third retirement summer with all those “Saturdays” and “Julys”. Yesterday was the first day of fall and I found myself thinking about school knowing that my friends have been back at work for almost two months – just a little less time than I’ve been here. Summer ended and I hardly noticed. No depression. No sense of loss of freedom. And I didn’t miss the excitement of preparing for a new year like I did the first two retirement summers.
I can really feel the changing season here in Brooklyn. There’s been a definite shift in the wind and in my life.