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Start of school signals the end of summer

School starts in a few days. To me, that always signaled the end of summer.

Before you remind me—someone already has—technically, fall doesn’t begin until September 22 this year. That means that we are smack dab in the middle of summer.

The eyes of a child don’t always look to a calendar.  And all of my life I felt like when school started back that summer was over and it might as well be fall.  I mean, if you have to get up early, have to wear shoes every day all day, and if you have to catch the school bus in the morning, it is no longer summer in any meaningful sense. And if it is no longer summer what it is?  If is fall.

What did going back to school mean?  It meant something different to each of us.

I suspect your memories are flooding back to the times when school started back for you.

For me it meant getting on the bus in the morning and taking a long ride that I enjoyed.  I was the second kid on in the morning, and the next-to-last kid off in the afternoon so I got to look out the windows and wool-gather, an art I practice to this day. 

It meant new school books.  I still remember how they smelled. But they were the books the older kids used last year, and now I was one of those older kids.  I couldn’t wait to see what was in them. 

It meant—when I was small—a new book satchel.   You have to be of a certain age to remember those.

It meant seeing what had changed over the summer.  I never will forget going back and getting the fright of my life.  It was the first day of, if memory serves, my fifth grade year.  Being a big kid now meant that I was on a different hall and I was excited.

I turned the corner at lunch—I can still smell the chicken and the rolls—and a girl in my class looked like she didn’t have a right arm.  Like any child would do, I stopped and looked, awkwardly.  It took a moment, but she finally looked at me, turned her right side to me and showed me that she’d broken it and it was in an odd cast and under her shirt.  But it scared me and I still remember it.

I know that we are starting back oddly this year.  While our local school systems have all made different decisions about how and when to start back, we are fortunate to live in a time when our administrations—public and private, city and county—are helmed by excellent people who have spent all summer figuring this out. They each made different decisions, and those different decisions were made based on the specific needs of the children they serve.

Oh, there will be bumps and hiccups, starts and stops, and we all have to be prepared to stop on a dime if things change.  It seems that change is the only constant in our lives right now.

But just like that when I saw that cute girl in elementary school, things are often not as bad as they seem.  In fact, some things are just in the process of healing, and healing takes time.

So when we start back, be patient with your children’s teachers.  Remember how frustrated you got with your children over the summer? They have a class full of children all day long. They are doing the best they can, and the best they can is generally pretty good.

Be patient with your children, too. They are dealing with things that we could not even imagine when we were their ages.

There is always someone lurking to make a political point with COVID.  Avoid people like that.  They are generally good at bringing everyone’s blood pressure up, and they are generally bad at offering any actual help.

Be patient. Ask questions, but ask them calmly and without accusation. 

Let’s treat each other with kindness and figure this out together.

And remember when a problem comes up it, just like fall, may not really be here, you just may think it’s here.

NOTE:  Last week we wrote a letter to our friends in trouble, and we called it “Dear Portland, Oregon”.  I got an email from way out yonder.  A writer out there was about to send in something with the same title we used, and she ran across our little conversation and contacted me about it.  I’ve had interesting contacts before.  Remember the column about my granddaughter a few weeks back?

State side, I received emails from as far away as Michigan, and I received one contact from overseas.  Don’t underestimate the audience our newspaper has.

And don’t underestimate how very much I appreciate all of the kind calls, emails, Facebook posts, and just face-to-face talks I have when I run into you all on the street. 

You, my friends, are the absolute best.

What say we meet back here next week?  Who knows what will have happened in the next seven days.