the autumn of my discontent


I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. I’ve been looking forward to this for at least a month. But now that it’s here, I feel rudderless, directionless, bored and alone.

I’m talking about the beginning of the school year, a Nirvana that mothers around the globe anticipate with a longing that grows exponentially with each passing week as their patience, tempers and sense of humor verge on being permanently lost.

After more and more frequent — and sometimes (but not always!) regrettable — episodes of losing it (“Will you PLEASE, for the thousandth time, PUHLEEEZE, hang your dang wet towel on the rack, do your chores — I don’t care whose turn it is – stop FIGHTING — and GET OFF THE COMPUTER!!!!!!!!!!!!), I was decidedly ready for “those people” (as my friend Lynn likes to call them) to GO BACK TO SCHOOL.

And two weeks ago, they went. Hallelujah, praise the Lord!! In what can only be termed “a frenzy” that first week I rearranged my house, picked out new paint color for the living and dining rooms, built a rocket ship, had lunch with my friends, put together new furniture, played tennis, finally went to the chiropractor and thought about looking for more freelance work for the first time in weeks.  Okay, so I didn’t rearrange the whole house — or build a rocket ship — but I felt like I coulda’.

But last week and this week were…different.  Rather than bursting with energy and purpose, I’ve felt strangely empty. I even thought about looking for a “real” job, which happens to me periodically when I lack the creative juices to figure out how to use my creative juices.

What is this malaise, then? Is it the let-down after an amazing summer — Paris for three weeks, the beach in Virginia to cap it off? Is it a lack of motivation to scrounge for piecemeal, peanut work in this lousy economy (can you blame me?)? Is it the change of seasons, the snap in the air that seemed to hit on the first day of September?

Or…could it be…do I actually miss my children?

It is…possible.  Despite my cynical ravings above, my daughters and I had lots of fun this summer – not just on the amazing trips, but in the wonderful  day-to-day of an easy summer rhythm that hummed along — sometimes  lazily like the cicadas, sometimes more fervently — and seemed like it would last forever, but simply didn’t: waking up late; staying up late; going to the pool; going to camp; running through the sprinkler; eating grilled food, fresh vegetables and ice cream; riding bikes and wearing shorts,  telling ghost stories  and playing ”RIP” into the night or until the mosquitoes chased everyone in.

Maybe it’s that with each passing, mixed-bag summer, the transition to school becomes more and more bittersweet, more sharply focused and frankly, while I look forward to it heartily, a little heart-breaking.

Could be because each summer I have with my children, every summer that they are still young enough to enjoy all those things we enjoyed, is a poignant and beautiful gift. Soon enough – and it already started a little this year with my 13-year-old — they will no longer want me around. And then, as quickly and abruptly as they entered my life, my sweet little girls will no longer be here.  I imagine it will feel much, much emptier around here when they’re gone.  And their wonderful innocence, their unburdened childhoods and, frankly (and selfishly), my chance to be a kid again with them will be gone, too.

And if I listen carefully, a tiny, whiny, pathetic voice whispering in the back of my mind wonders, “Without them, who am I? Without them, what will I do?”

Sigh.

I guess it’s about time I figured that out.

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