August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.
– Sylvia Plath, American poet, novelist, and short story writer
Yesterday was the first day of school. This summer the kids didn’t have as many camps as last year, a sign that my 13-year-old is getting too old for camps. As a result, there were a couple of weeks these past couple of months where I was rushing to be ready at a certain time to drive them to their destinations. So the beginning of school marked a change in routine for Rex and me. No more 6:30 AM dog walks, when it was as light as midday. It will take a few weeks before the confusion on his face is replaced by resignation of the non-summer routine – he will have to wait until my lunch break.
It’s still August, but even I have noticed the slant of light changing, how little by little the hours of daylight are receding. Youth travel ball is done for the season. In Major League Baseball, however, teams in tight pennant races are watching the scoreboards. The Oakland A’s are still hanging tough in their division. Powdery mildew, which has invaded my garden early this season, has coated the leaves of my dahlias – a dusting of snow – and dried out their buds. I fear I only have one or two more weeks of bouquets left.
Fall, autumn, used to be one of my favorite seasons – the crisp air, the changing light, dried corn husks, hay bales, scarecrows, and pumpkins, and Halloween and Thanksgiving towards the end of the season. Fall colors – burgundy, gold, red, and chocolate – for fall dressing. Although here in the Bay Area, with the constant fog, you wear jackets and boots anyway. We get our Indian summer, but it’s still fall to me, the promise of cooler weather to come.
I had many projects planned for summer that went by the wayside: teaching the kids how to cook so they could make dinner and having them review math and write a few essays for me. In the beginning of summer, I took Jacob to watch The Kings of Summer to introduce coming-of-age movies to him and to surreptitiously learn what male adolescence was all about. In the middle of summer a group of his baseball teammates and some of the moms watched The Way, Way Back. I thought it was only fitting to finish off the last day of summer before school started with another movie, making it the final installment of a trilogy of coming-of-age movies. I took the kids to see The Spectacular Now.
It was a much more serious movie about growing up – and more R-rated than The Way, Way Back. I thought, as we walked home from the BART station, well, at least Jacob doesn’t have to take part II of sex education. After fifth grade, he was surprised that he didn’t have another year of sex education in sixth grade, telling me in a perplexed tone of voice, “They told us what happens when the egg and the sperm come together, but they didn’t tell us how they get together.” While the sex scene in the movie was not graphic, it gave you an idea of how they get together. Oftentimes what’s left to the imagination is more powerful than what’s exposed. The scene seemed long and drawn-out to me, the mortified mom. The kids also learned what happens when you drink and drive. And that drinking can be a way of masking the pain of adolescent loneliness and self-doubt, and growing up when you don’t want to. The title of the movie comes from the way Sutter, the main character, lives his life – not thinking of the future because it’s too scary, but living in the present because life as a high school senior is way more fun and free of responsibilities.
Given that last school year flew by, I have no doubt that I will have to hang on tight and live in the “spectacular now,” if I’m to appreciate every inch that the kids grow this year, pay attention to all the things they tell me and hope they continue to talk freely with me, and encourage them to step out of their comfort zone as they explore their independence. Jacob is entering eighth grade, a year out from high school. Isabella is in fifth grade, two years to go until middle school. The end of this summer, this beginning of the school year, is bittersweet. We are hurtling toward that moment when the seasons will be profoundly new and life-changing. So we must say good-bye to summer and welcome fall, living fully in the now.