I did not shop for school supplies this year. No number two pencils, desk organizers, cute notebooks, or white boards. For the past 16 years I have taken a first day of school photo, posing my two kids on the front porch and forcing them to smile for the camera. But not today. I’m not going to lie, it’s a little bit weird, but it’s not bad weird.
This is the fifth day of everybody’s-at-college, but-the-dog. I find myself ensconced in cleaning, happy to wake up to a neat kitchen–a kitchen just the way I left it the previous night. I’ve reduced the front hallway shoe pile to four pairs, and dinners have been a no-stress affair with lots of veggies and NO COMPLAINING. My Whole Foods bill has been reduced by one million dollars. All in all, it’s sort of been ok.
But I imagine I could freak out in a week or so, when the relief of getting Ally packed and moved in has worn off and I find myself wandering around the house looking for kids to mother.
I don’t know exactly what this year will be like. But so far, it doesn’t feel like I am going to take to my bed and mourn the role I have spent much of my adult life starring in. Does this mean I don’t love my kids? NO. It doesn’t mean that at all. I think it means I am trying to take in this change and see what it is all about, see what kind of opportunities it might present. I’m open. This next part of life isn’t scripted, and I’m wide open to welcoming the same kind of possibilities all those new school supplies have always represented each September. Gratitude for the unknown. Every time there’s an ending, there’s a beginning. We’ll see, won’t we?
Usually when school ends, we head for the choppy waves on Lucy Vincent, for the rocking chairs at The Chilmark Store, and coffee and sandwiches, and pizza, the scallops at The Bite, the sunsets in Menemsha, the salty breezes that require a cozy sweatshirts at night, for the laid back feeling of sea air. We are programmed for cold rolls at the Farmer’s Market, oohing and ahhhing at Noche, Midnight Farm, Pandora’s Box and Bananas. We can’t wait for breakfast at the Art Cliff, or our first visit to a Bunch of Grapes for books. Wildflowers, and special summer cocktails, knocking buoys, and fog horns, long walks, sandy floors, and scrabble championships, brass rings, Kadema, ice cream at the Galley, fishing on the jetty, so many friends, Eileen Blake’s Pies and Otherwise, fireworks and tick checks.
This has been July for twenty years, my kid’s whole lives. (and nine years before they were even a thought). This is the year where what has always been, is not. There has been a break in tradition. School ended and we are not where we are supposed to be. My body doesn’t know what to make of it. Why aren’t I out of breath, from jamming the car with food, and suitcases, beach chairs and candles, and little white lights? Why am I still in Brookline? Where is the ferry? It’s those damn kids. They had to go and grow up. THE NERVE. What, did I think? That they’d follow in Peter Pan’s footsteps? But we had a tradition. A family tradition. It meant something. I’m quite certain it meant something to all of us.The first two weeks of July were sacred beach time on our favorite island. It was a deal. And I believed it to be set in stone.
But even stones can crumble.
I remember, like it was two days ago, when we’d have to drive the kids around in the car to get one or both of them to sleep, and now, their schedules don’t allow us to go see Martha. What will Island Mini Golf do without us?
It’s not just that we arent’t there at that place I love, that feels part of my DNA. It’s that I am forced to come to terms with the loss of a time when my kids were dependent, part of us. Stop the world for just a moment, because time has shifted the sands.
Not that our vacations were always perfect, or without arguments, bad weather, and unmet expectations, but that that time is now as over as Ben and Jen’s marriage. Poof. Once so much a part of who we are, now just evidence of who we were. I wasn’t ready. I thought I might be, but I see now, I wasn’t. Are you ever ready for such a seismic shift? Can you really prepare? I see now, I would never be ready, given the choice.
It’s not about saying goodbye to a place, it’s saying goodbye to a time. It’s waving off childhood. It’s a little like giving birth all over again, but without the good drugs, and people making you dinner.
A new life will begin. New traditions. As soon as I catch up to myself, I’m sure I’ll see how to build a new tradition. I will visit that Island again, and the versions of my kids eating breakfast overlooking the cliffs of Aquinnah, and grabbing for the brass ring, and kayaking, and building castles will be there. They will be there, those littler versions of Jake and Ally prancing around that island like they owned it. I will see them, in all the familiar places. Until then, I will have to remember that this is what I raised them to do. To grow up.