Though more than a decade has passed since a summer stretched before me with nothing to do but enjoy, the memory of those days has not yet become fuzzy in my mind like so many others. I still recall with clarity the promise of morning cartoons, bare feet, and time spent in the sunshine that those three months held. I’d emerge from the season tan and freckle-faced, the illumination of streetlights my only concept of time.
I also remember the countdown that began as July came to a close. August meant shopping for new clothing and school supplies. It meant being encouraged to go to bed and rise earlier in preparation for the return of a routine and for those reasons the month of August always came with a touch of dread.
For me, the first summer season spent as an “adult” was jarring. For the first time in my life, the arrival of the month of June meant only that I could expect a higher electric bill from running the air conditioner and my morning commute would temporarily not include being trapped behind a school bus. For many years I welcomed fall and the return of scarves and relief from the heat, but this year I feel that familiar dread creeping back in.
In many ways, the first five years on Earth is the longest summer of life. It is the only season that lasts for sixty months and promises both snowball fights and runs through the sprinkler. For most, these years are as purely care-free as they come and for my son that time is drawing to a close. In just a few weeks he will begin kindergarten.
Perhaps I am being a touch dramatic. It’s not as if life shovels a heap of worry onto your head the moment you enter a classroom. I realize that the sum of my son’s responsibilities will be a few worksheets and the memorization of the letters and numbers we have worked on together for years, but the beginning of his academic career brings my mind to its end. Suddenly, thirteen years is a heartbeat and I have never felt so reluctant for a summer’s close.
Anders is ready. He talks endlessly about school buses and teachers, about new backpacks and new friends. He knows his alphabet, his numbers, and days of the week. He says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and follows directions. He has even learned how to share — a skill I myself need to improve upon. It is much harder to do when that which you are forced to share is not a favorite toy or a chocolate bar or a box of crayons.
This is my son and the world has patiently waited its turn, but I’m finding a lifetime of lessons doesn’t ease the pain of letting go.
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