As a kid, my stomach would always start hurting when I saw “back to school” sale signs go up in stores. Although I was a bookish nerd who diagrammed sentences for fun, school was not my happy place. Libraries, maybe, yeah, but libraries were just full of books. Schools were, by definition, full of other children, many of whom were not particularly inclined to be nice to a bookish nerd who diagrammed sentences for fun.
So summers were my favorite time of year. I got unlimited free time to hang out with the few friends I had, ride my bike all over the city, watch MTV and Nickelodeon till the wee hours, sleep late, and read all the books I wanted. It was a little slice of perfection for three months every year.
The rude reminder starting in late July/early August that summer was coming to an end always sent me into an anxiety spiral that no amount of multicolored clicky pens or Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers could mitigate, regardless of my general enthusiasm for school supplies (which endures to this day).
Now, as a parent myself, I still get an initial thrill at the heady rush of summer break – no more packing lunches or signing reading logs or making sure uniforms are clean. By late April, I’m as ready for summer as the kids are.
But the novelty wears off faster as a mom who doesn’t get a summer break myself, and by early August, I’m eager to send them back, embrace the routine of after-school snacks, club meetings, homework, early bedtimes.
I’m now officially the target market for those “back to school” sale signs; the only thing I love more than fresh reams of looseleaf and brand-new packs of ballpoint pens is discounted fresh reams of looseleaf and brand-new packs of ballpoint pens.
And my kids, thankfully, are much more outgoing than I was, so while they might grumble a bit about the early morning alarms or the summer math packets, they are ultimately ready to go back to school, too.
That doesn’t mean that August isn’t still a source of anxiety for me, though. It’s just that now my worries aren’t school-related so much as storm-related.
As long as I live here, I can safely guess that I will spend June 1 through Nov. 30 (aka hurricane season) in some state of stress, which will be at its highest point from late August until mid-September.
The past three years have brought us Hurricane Barry (2019), Hurricane Zeta (2020), and Hurricane Ida (2021) – the latter blowing out our bathroom windows, chasing us to Tennessee, knocking out power, and canceling school for weeks. I’m not too excited to see what 2022 might bring our way.
If the start of school is inevitable, though, like death and taxes, hurricanes aren’t a given. We might get lucky. We might not.
All I can do is what I do every year: Light the Nash Roberts prayer candle my mom made for me, and hope for the best. It’s not quite as satisfying as a rainbow unicorn Trapper Keeper, but it still helps keep my anxiety at bay.
And after all, I’m a grown-up now.