Mid-August has rolled around too soon, as usual. Time for back to school and the hottest temperatures of the year in South Texas. I heard some young moms recently encourage each other to “enjoy this last week before the craziness ends.” I can only remember what it was like to have a full, loud house for three months of the summer, as my kids are now grown. But I do remember it often seemed very crazy with three girls going in different directions to camps, tennis lessons, swim team, driver’s ed, and friends’ houses for sleepovers. Eventually, though, the dog days of summer arrived, the long days seemed to drag, and mass boredom ensued, prompting my efforts to help. Why don’t you go outside and play? Why don’t you ride your bike to a friend’s house? Oh yeah, it’s too hot. Even the charm of the swimming pool wore off as the water temperature rose and my potted plants wilted. Luckily, as if to break the monotony, the school supply list was posted. Despite my daughters’ dread of the looming first day of school, they all got very excited about a trip to Target to explore aisle upon aisle of cool binders and multi-colored notebooks, some covered with psychedelic images of kittens and puppies or the latest pop culture icon. I could only imagine their thrill at seeing Justin Bieber or the cast of High School Musical every time they pulled out their Social Studies spirals. Oh, and the array of brightly colored mechanical pencils, cases in which to place them, and those big pink erasers! Then there was the selection of backpacks. I don’t remember spending a fortune on Care Bear or Barney backpacks, but as the girls grew up, backpack shopping got serious; Patagonia and L.L. Bean serious. Clothes shopping wasn’t such a big deal though, since they went to Catholic school. There was just the annual review of the State of the Uniform, at which time out-grown clothes were typically passed down the line to the younger sis while the older one was dragged to the uniform store for a new white blouse and plaid skirt. Most every year we had to shop for the requisite black shoes, which were always difficult to locate in August. Finally, after all the shopping and backpack stuffing, it was time to rush through the summer reading assignments and mentally brace ourselves for the start of the school year and its accompanying cherished traditions. Back-to-School Picnic, Meet-the-Teacher Night, Sign-Up-for-PTO-Job-or-Feel-Guilty, Spend-a-Full-Day-Penciling-Dates-in-Your-Calendar. The number of early dismissal days was astounding.
Before we knew it, an August arrived that was different from all the preceding ones; it was time to take our oldest to college. This involved a totally different set of school supplies, including bedding, towels and a laptop. The summer was one of high emotion, lots of excitement mixed with high anxiety, nervousness and fear, mixed with relief that she was going to college after all the SAT’s, applications and essays. August brought a pit-in-the-stomach feeling that a big change was on the horizon. Then, it was time for goodbyes and the stifling of tears all around. We repeated that twice more and are now adapting to a much quieter nest.
As my youngest prepares to return to college for her junior year, there haven’t been many supplies to purchase. Just some funny Andy Warhol pencils, some llama sticky notes, and a new set of twin sheets. The pit in my stomach that grew every August is long gone, replaced by contentment that there are no more unknowns associated with the start of this new school year. In fact, next August will be the last time I’ll ever have to think about purchasing school supplies.