This morning as I left the house, there was an uncharacteristic hint – just a hint – of crispness in the air. No, the frost wasn’t on the pumpkin just yet. It’s still dead-center August in the Southeast, in the midst of what may be the most ferociously hot summer we’ve ever experienced outside of Houston. Yet it was possible to feel the coming change, the inevitable turn of the seasons.
That change signaled itself yet again when I drove past a small mob of parents and their elementary school-age children at the neighborhood’s bus stop. Being the husband of a teacher, I had of course already known that today was the day the schoolkids returned to their classrooms after summer vacation. There’s a big difference, though, between knowing it and seeing it.
I smiled, right then, and waved to the crowd as I went by: None of those parents or kids knew me, I was certain, but it never hurts to be neighborly. Despite my outward smile, however, I was feeling a certain rueful nostalgia.
How long had it been since our daughters were in elementary school – or public school, for that matter? We used to have a tradition of photographing the girls on their first day of school every year. Somewhere in the bowels of our basement there is a series of pictures forming a sort of stroboscopic portrait of their respective childhoods, capturing their gradual change from little children to young women. I thought of my own Snot-Nose Days and my love-hate relationship with elementary school, the bittersweet excitement of returning after the lazy days of July and August, the endless speculation about what this year’s teacher would be like and which of my friends would be in the same class with me.
Those years are past me, now. It’s someone else’s turn to stand there waiting for the bus on the first day of school. Someone else’s job to take those First Day of School pictures. And that’s fine. It’s the turn of the seasons, you know.
The full moon hung low in the western sky as I turned onto the main road, another reminder of the passage of time. Full moon, third quarter, new moon, first quarter… phase after phase, the months and years tick by. There’s still plenty of summer left yet; Fall’s harvest moon is two months away. But it will be here, sure enough.