It Always Happens This Way

Every year, the end of summer brings with it a uniquely familiar laziness; a heavy sleep and slow pace brought on by too many heat-stricken days. Our senses remember this annual dance as we unconsciously adapt—physically, mentally, emotionally—to the next phase. The year begins, always, with the weary exposition of a frigid winter, encouraging us to move with anxious feet through the refreshing rhythm of bright spring mornings and bursts of color in rebirth. We’re fully awake now, which means that the journey can really begin. The livelihood of summer is paved with unstructured activity and anticipated busyness, always pulling, never ceasing. Then, as promised, the heightened energies of summer build to their inevitable climax, sending us full of tired relief into the denouement of cooler, welcomed, autumn nights.

Our internal watch keeps accurate time; it knows the signs of passing seasons, made obvious by changes in weather and light and smells in the air. No matter the difference in our lives from year to year, this friendly, built-in timeline remains constant. It is a comfort.

The calendar may not say so, but summer is drawing to a close. That is, the “summer” that lasts from mid-June to Labor Day and is full of neighborhood adventures, chlorine-soaked hair, and afternoons spent napping on the living room sofa.

In those days and weeks before school begins, as the high of summer is beckoned back to its den, we take every opportunity we can to blissfully doze through unhurried reading sessions… no matter how old we are. It helps not to have a job, of course. Ah, to be in school again…

It is my favorite time of year, the weeks when summer turns to autumn, but it carries with it a unique kind of melancholy. This week marks the first part of that phase, and it is now that nostalgia has the strongest hold on me—when I lose myself in daydreams and mental bursts of images, moments, smells, and sounds from the past. There is a strange masochism that comes with cherished memories of being young; of being someone so incomplete.

Though it’s been years since I’ve experienced the transition from unbridled childhood freedom to regimented responsibility, my body doesn’t forget. It might explain why these recent busy weeks of work have left me drained and aching for those last days of rest, some calm before the scholastic storm.

Yes, my life and work will continue as it has been; the approaching autumn will not alter my routine.

I will sit at my desk and plug away from 9 to 5 in the comfort of my home. I will play another round of peek-a-boo with my children. I will cook dinners with my love, feeling old but happy to stay put—watching movies, listening to podcasts, or retreating to bed simply to feel the cool sheets against my tired legs.

Still… all the while I will remember the soccer practices under cloud kingdoms and the distinct smell of California autumn, where the scent of damp grass and dry leaves meet. I’ll remember the first days in a new desk at the start of a new school year, and the amnesia that comes from a summer of abandon: children who were once so anxious to leave the classroom always return with a joy and passion for new-found knowledge… and school supplies.

Autumn approaches and I once again get this way. Nostalgic, full of longing yet comforted by contentment. Perhaps I’ll write about it every year, just one more cog in the clockwork of seasons. Perhaps I’ll write about it every year to try and capture the complex feelings and memories linked to summer’s end. Perhaps I’ll write about it every year until I get it right.

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