by Jon Worley
Twenty years ago, my mom drove me 835 miles to college. I felt that was the minimum distance I needed to be from Clovis, N.M. I liked my family just fine--though escaping the long arms of the parents has its own benefits--but I just couldn't hack another day in a ranching town ten miles from the Texas border.
Yesterday, my son Max went school shopping with my wife Barbara. He picked out a new backpack and lunch box and gathered up the other requested materials, including quart and gallon-sized Ziploc bags.
Today dawned cool. Spring gave us a miss this year, as the weather went straight from highs in the 50s to highs in the 80s in early May. We've gotten about two inches of rain this summer, and so the trees are already shedding their leaves. I'm wondering if summer will fly straight into winter, skipping my favorite season entirely.
I like fall because I associate it with the start of school. Specifically, college. I had a great time in college, what with all the things that college students do. Also, I met my wife in college. Our semi-official first date (I asked her to a party; she said she'd come if I bought her a bottle of Jack Daniels; I arranged for the purchase of said bottle; she stopped by) was on September 15, 1989. We don't really celebrate it much, but then again, we often don't celebrate our wedding anniversary, either. Still, that's a good reason to like fall--even though September 15 is still technically in the summer.
But see, fall begins whenever school starts. This year, fall begins on August 27, Max's first day of Kindergarten.
Some folks see the advent of formal schooling as a big thing. Most stay-at-home parents I know see it as a day of celebration. Someone else will be responsible for your five-year-old bundle of nervous energy for six hours a day. If you're smart enough to enroll your kid in public school, this invaluable service isn't costing you a thing. Angst? As soon as I get home from walking Max to school, I'm popping a beer. One of the big ones.
Okay, I'm not. Because Sam is two and he'll still be around. So no beer. At least, no beer at nine in the morning.
I always liked going back to school. There's a particular new book smell I remember. Chances are that odor was toxic, but I loved it anyway. And it was fun seeing who might be in my class (or classes). I liked the feeling of starting over.
Max is moving from his preschool (which he attended for four days a week, three-and-a-half hours a day) to a Spanish immersion elementary school. I don't how much Spanish he'll get out of it, but he's gonna like school. Like just about every kid his age, he craves learning. The longer day will be an adjustment, but most days he could have stayed at preschool for twice as long. In any case, he's excited about school, which is the most important thing.
I'm happy that fall is arriving earlier this year. I hope it brings some rain. I often bike along the branches of the upper Anacostia river, and today there was almost no water. At some points the Northwest Branch was about a foot across. We need the rain. And while a wet fall isn't the greatest, I'll take it.
Twenty years ago I went to college. My first roommate was from St. Louis, that special sort of Missouri student who ended up in Columbia because he (or she) partied too much in high school to make into Mom or Dad's Ivy alma mater. The first night in town, he took me around with his friends from St. Louis and tried to convince me that listening to the Violent Femmes and playing drinking games while watching soap operas was a true life calling. I'm all for drinking games, but the soap operas didn't do it for me--and I've never been completely sold on the Femmes, either. Ah, but that's college. Sometimes you make friends because they're able to buy booze and you're only 17. I still think that's an eminently reasonable course of action.
So here's to school. And fall. And girls (or boys, if you prefer). And beer, while we're handing out "cheers" (as Sam would say). As the weather begins to change, life gets rearranged.
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