Wednesday, August 21, 2013


The Meanings of Late August

As a kid, late August carried the dread and melancholy of knowing that summer vacation was nearly over.  I’m seeing some of that now with The Boy and The Girl.

As a teenager, late August carried a certain relief and excitement.  The dreary summer job was ending, and I could get back to school to see my friends.  The same held true in college.

In grad school, late August suggested that I could finally get away from the crummy summer jobs that I felt like I should have already aged out of, and get back to the business at hand.  

At DeVry, late August didn’t mean anything at all.  The “summer” trimester ran from July through October.  

For several years, late August meant gearing up for the faculty and students to return, which always generated a new wave of activity.  It still does.

But now, late August has another meaning.  TB and TG are at the ages at which most weeknights during the school year bring out-of-house commitments: Lego League, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, music lessons, band rehearsals, CCD, and the like.  The worst months, in terms of time commitments, are usually September/October and (especially) April/May.  Summer vacation brings blessed relief.

September, among its other blessings, brings the return of Chauffeur Season.  

I’ve come full circle.  The first version of late August melancholy was based on the imminent loss of freedom.  This version is based on the imminent loss of time.

In a few years, I’ll look back on this time fondly.  This piece by Michael Gerson -- of whom I’m not usually a fan -- actually choked me up a little; TB is getting closer to that age than any of us is willing to admit.  In just a few years, late August will mean the imminent departure of TB.  At that point, the chauffeuring may not seem so bad.

But we’re not there yet.  So I’ll try to enjoy these last couple of weeks before the calendar becomes the stern taskmaster that it always does.  Chauffeur Season is as unforgiving as I once imagined the fourth grade would be.

For this advanced grad student, late August means imminent departure from a fun, collegial, intellectually engaging summer job to the lonely dungeon of dissertation writing. Quite the opposite of your grad school experiences! (I think this is a bad sign about my life decisions, but the summer job holds no possibility of permanence, and the dissertation writing is funded. Sigh.)
More about Gerson's piece than yours, but also a head's up for your future.

I was really taken by the comment about always having a room in his parent's house when reflecting on keeping the nest ready for the return of his son next summer. It reminded me of just how powerful those places are as symbols of family ties. Yeah, there is a reason why my brother and I "had to" sleep in a room where one of our parents had slept as kids, and why they still enjoy having us couch surf at "their place". Great memories.
I dropped my kid off at college 2 days ago. Bittersweet does not begin to explain the feelings. Gerson was right on target. In the midst of this sad, happy, grief-stricken time, I'm ramping up for school. August has always been crazy for us. Usually both of us have been teaching and then with kids, both of them are preparing for school. I'm trying to savor the last bits of relative freedom.
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