Yesterday was my daughter’s first day of her junior year of high school, and my son starts his 7th grade year at a new middle school next week. I’m in the middle of a rude and abrupt awakening from the endless-summer fantasy I’ve indulged myself in these past few weeks. Like always in the month of August, I’ve had that stupid “mother-amnesia” thing going on. You know, that crazy denial state. The one that was apparently powerful enough to enable me to get knocked-up again after birthing my first child and living with him for two years, and later to do it all over again for the third time? It’s VERY powerful indeed. So naturally, being in my happy summer mom-amnesia cloud, I forgot once again how painful the transition of back-to-school can be, and how horribly emotionally overwrought everyone becomes at this time of year, and it hit me upside the head hard last night.
In the precious evening hours after a hideously long day at work, I found myself alternating between states of useless post-work stupor and Fall-transition induced panic, complete with vivid flashbacks of past Septembers that made me want to huff the fumes from the hundreds of dollars worth of glue sticks and highlighters heaped in the bags of school supplies in my living room. As I wandered aimlessly between the rooms of my house where little heart-rending scenes of family life played themselves out, I grasped at straws. What can I possibly do to help me survive this transition from the carefree days of summer to the regimented, over-booked schedule of September? OBVIOUSLY I cannot just check out and sit in the corner of my bedroom rocking back and forth all month. Nor can I stuff myself with cookies, or gummy bears, or Xanax, or wine and power through it in a hazy fog. I can’t run away to a beach in Mexico with a man half my age, nor can I drain the bank account and drive myself to a cabin in the mountains to live like Thoreau, though all of these ideas passed at least briefly through my mind last night. I can’t. No, I can’t, because I am a bona-fide grown-up.
Being a grown-up is hard. It means I have to put on some lipstick, buck-up, suit-up, and show-up. I have to pull myself together and bravely soldier on for the sake of my loved ones, and for the sake of my own sanity. I have to buy the school supplies, and wash the clothes, and go to work, and do my yoga practice, and keep the faith, and floss my teeth, and eat right, and get enough sleep, and pay the proper amount of attention to everyone, and take care of myself, and not eat too many Cheetos, and do all that stuff that grown-up ladies do. It means I can’t run away, and it means that I have to accept that IT IS WHAT IT IS, and then, I have to get up tomorrow and accept it all over again. On another day, I might be writing about how grateful I am for all of this, or about what a blessing it all is, or about my goals and aspirations, but today this is what I’m dealing with.
What “it” IS at the moment became clear to me as I toggled back and forth ineptly between the rooms of my house last night. Behind the first door was one tanned, long-legged almost 17-year-old girl sprawled out on her bed in tears. She had another 200 or so pages of Jane Eyre to finish from her summer homework, and a list of overwhelming woes related to the onset of the indentured servitude of her school year, at the top of which is her lack of a car. Behind another door were a couple of chattery middle-school boys, one wearing men’s size 11 shoes, indulging in an end-of-summer sleepover. Clearly they were still fully ensconced in their summer denial (which possibly could be even stronger than mine) and were fluently and unceasingly speaking the obsessive Dr. Seussian language of skateboarders. “I landed a nollie heel yesterday…so what, I can big flip jeez…oh yeah! well I fifty fiftied the box and board-slid the flat bar at Dahl today…I can almost pop-shov-it!…Well I krooked my rail today and kick-flipped and heel-flipped and tre-flipped and and “Mom! Do we have any ice cream?…“.
Through the door of the kitchen, there was a somewhat haggard appearing 47-year-old man, who for some reason several years ago decided it would be a good idea to date a woman with three adolescent children. Now, this poor man finds himself not only LIVING with them, but cooking them dinner at 10 pm after a long, tiring day at his own job doing something I can’t explain with computers. He had to cook the dinner, because the woman that he was brave enough to live with was too addled to do anything but run back and forth ineptly between the other two rooms making the dramas more dramatic, as she reminded herself over and over again that there is no DRUG that will take this away, no way to escape without hurting herself or someone else, and no bag of gummy bears large enough to drown in. This too shall pass.