Sometimes the cycles push us into seasons before we feel ready.
Back to school supplies flood the aisles and the clearance floaties and sunscreen and coolers line the back end caps with red stickers and slashed prices.
And then 5 subject notebooks, dorm room matching comforter sets, Crayolas, and boxes of number two pencils are clearanced to make room for pumpkins and costumes and bags of candy corn.
And those kids with their summer-browned limbs fade away too. Maybe off on their first day of Kindergarten when you place them on the front porch and they smile wide and toothy flashing the first day of school sign you printed off Pinterest. And their backpack is bigger than their whole torso leaving them looking lopsided and weighed down but it’s your shoulders you held back from rushing to them when they turned around with one last glance before disappearing into the classroom.
You may have gone back to your car and cried because it’s all too fast, or sighed in relief that it’s a new chapter, or both.
Maybe they’re off on their own, maybe you drove them across the country and set them up with boxes of stuff to make it feel homey and you met their roommate and made them pose for pictures and you hugged them extra tight but you drove home alone. Now when they come home, they’ll be visiting. And you’re so proud and so scared and it’s all new for you too.
It came so fast.
Because soon you’ll walk the aisles of Target and there’ll be pumpkin costumes and you’ll remember when you wheeled them around your local pumpkin patch and they picked the most wonky elongated pumpkin and they wanted to carve it themselves so you got a knife that wouldn’t instantly sever fingers but you still wrapped your hand over theirs and edged the hollows out and let them stay up past dark to light it up and set it on the porch. But suddenly you feel hollowed out too.
We live a thousand seasons with one memory. Sometimes we ache with them.
It doesn’t matter what season is upon me, I seldom feel ready and yet they never wait.
Costco will stock aisles of gifts and wrapping paper and giant inflatable snowmen. Yet our Dahlias are still in bloom in the garden. The first frost will slay them and it’s coming whether I’m ready or not.
Today, it’s hot. Much too hot for grammar lessons or read alouds or algebra. It’s a wide open day of sunshine, made for plunging into the lake or settling under the canopy of a sturdy pine with a book that’s good for nothing but escape. It’s a day for watermelon the color of your toenail polish and sticky chins and tan lines.
But seasons come and go. So I look for beauty in the transitions.
I drink iced coffee but the scent of pumpkin spice is around the corner ready to seep into my fall. I want to dig in my heels and demand the days slow down. But the leaves will recast themselves into a fierce canary and crimson tangle in the autumn air. And the children will put on scarves and mittens and rake them into a mound to leap through like they’re scattering giant flakes of golden-amber confetti. And on that day, I’ll try holding onto the sound of their laughter and the crunch of their boots in fall.
I’ll pause to appreciate the coziness of a hot mug and pumpkin pie for $5 at Costco and the throw-blankets we’ll pull out and tuck around our laps as we read snuggled up tight underneath.
I live across a span of seasons, a 1st grader, a 6th grader, and a junior taller than his father. He’ll get his drivers license this year and have classes at the community college instead of my kitchen table. I’ll probably cry like I did his first day of Kindergarten and then I’ll go home to the younger kids and teach multiplication of one-digit numbers and how to identify pronoun shifts.
I vacillate moment by moment between wanting it to speed up and slow down. Sometimes I forget to be present right now.
Every season is a goodbye, a death of sorts and an awakening. I have never been good with transitions but the momentum keeps me moving on. Keeps me pushing in for strength and for wisdom in the unknown when life rearranges into new normals.
I’m learning to say my hellos and goodbyes well.
There is no pause in the process, only paying attention. Only appreciation for where you are, whatever season you find yourself in.
*A version of this post was first featured in my Open Letters Series.