Sitting at my desk this morning, I spy the first golden tipped leaves peeking out atop the branches of the maple tree outside my window.
Summer is waning.
I don’t ache at summer’s end as much as I once did, facing the prospect of a new school year with all its attendant worries. During the years my son was in school, hating every minute of it, each day brought its own set of difficulties. (For those mothers dreading September for similar reasons - my heart is with you.)
Nor do I despair as the pages of my calendar suddenly fill to the brim with appointments and rehearsals and work schedules. While September will bring a slight uptick in the amount of my activity, the dailiness of life won’t change very much, and that’s alright with me.
I anticipate the beauty of autumn days, the rainbow hue of colored leaves, crisp cool air on the morning walk. Autumn brings pleasures that suit me well: warm sweaters and cozy blankets, savory stews in the slow cooker, the glow of firelight at early evening. I plan to relish them all, using each one to stave off anticipatory fears of another bitter and punishing winter.
But before summer ends, we have the joy of a visit from our son and his family, two weeks with the patter of little feet running through the house each morning, of reading favorite stories, playing games of make believe, of taking walks through the neighborhood. Watching my son with his own son is a pleasure I could never have anticipated, especially when I think of the unhappy teenager that once stalked through the house every August, already angry at the prospect of school days lying in wait. Who would have guessed that years later he would devote such patience, caring, dedication, imagination, and unending devotion to a small child of his own?
Certainly not me. And while I adore every minute of the time I spend with my grandson, am proud and amazed at his charm, his intelligence, his beautiful clear skin and lovely little voice, it is still my own son who holds pride of place in my heart. Because he belongs to me in a way my grandson cannot.
When my son was young, I loved summer vacations, loved having him home with me, loved the freedom to do what we wanted to do without the restriction of school calendars. As much as he disliked going back to school, I disliked it as well, because it meant giving up all that time with him during the day, meant turning his care over to someone else, entrusting him to a world fraught with the possibility of hurt. Like those first gold-tinged leave on my maple tree this morning, those school days were the foreshadowing of the end of our halcyon days of summer together and a reminder that one day he would be grown and living his own life apart and away from me.
Each school year brings parents closer to that time when their children will leave the nest and set out on their own path through life. It’s part of the natural plan, like the change of season. Our roles as parents wane over the years, we become less a vital part of our children’s daily lives and more of a (hopefully!) pleasant presence in the back of their minds.
It’s the way it’s supposed to be.
With every end, there is a beginning. Yes, my son grew up and moved far away and we see each other only a few times a year instead of every day. But here is a wonderful beginning in this beautiful child of his. I take comfort in that, just as I take comfort in the pleasures of fall as way of gathering strength for the the winter ahead.
In knowing that the cycle begins again, and continues never-ending through all of time.