With those words, 73 days ago, I put to bed the computer on my desk at school after having written them to my friend Mike in Quakertown. The "then" in that sentence is now, the evening before my return to the classroom to begin my thirty-first year of teaching. This night before the inevitable return to school has always been an emotion packed affair for me, and no less so this year. No matter how many times I retire another summer to the honking of the alarm clock at 5:55 to begin the first and then each of the subsequent 179 workdays, it will always be a "rude awakening" to me - the realization that my mission here on this earth isn't finished yet and that more work remains to be done.
It was on Friday that I began the official "wrapping up" of summer vacation in my heart. I started with the last cup of coffee I'll have on the deck on a weekday that isn't a workday or holiday until next June and the look on my face says it all. So, maybe I exaggerated the expression a little knowing what it was to represent, but it's not an inaccurate representation of what my heart was feeling. I know I should be used to that emotion, that I should expect and anticipate it, that it shouldn't give me a kick every time, but it does. I know I do good work. I have believed every step of the way that I'm doing pretty much what the Almighty wanted me to do with my life. Yet, it's still difficult to give up the life of leisure that summer provides and to pick up a fresh piece of chalk with which to make the first few strokes of what will be another mural in my life and in the lives of the kids I will teach.
Though I've been more or less an "empty nester" since my younger daughter headed off to college five summers ago, this was the first summer, with her now at graduate school, in which I was alone all day each summer day when I wasn't away. Every now and then I imagine what my life might have been like as a contemplative monk and this summer to some degree I experienced the solitude about which I'd often wondered. I embraced it as I did the simplicity of my days and I fairly wallowed in the freedom of doing just about anything I wanted to do when I wanted to do it without having to consult anybody else's schedule.
It was with much joy, though, that I welcomed my baby back for a few days between the end of her internship and the beginning of her new semester. We were able to squeeze in the dad and daughter lunch that we've been enjoying together on the last Friday of summer vacation since her last year in high school. Though we've always talked, there's a bonding that occurs and deepens every year when we go for that lunch that is incomparable to any other time when we're together. Yesterday we went to Allentown to visit her sister and it was a very nice last Saturday of the summer with both of my girls.
I fell asleep in the recliner with the TV on last night, and when I stirred sometime in the middle of the night I realized that I had slid down and apparently slept with my back in some awkward position for a few hours. It was a toss-up as to whether I should take the bike or the car to church this morning with my lower back aching as it did, but in the end the bike won out in spite of the temperature being only in the upper fifties. After all, it would be my last day of the vacation to ride and I was going to be darned if I let a little twinge in my back stop me.
Likewise, after my usual Sunday afternoon nap I took the scooter out for about an hour just for the sake of winding down my last few hours of freedom suitably. I wanted to pose by the colorful gazebo at which I often take a picture of myself at the beginning or end or at both points of a usual summer vacation, but there were other people at the park and I didn't want to look (any more) odd (than I usually do) by snapping a selfie there. Here's one of me there from the beginning of the summer, for old time's sake.
There were a number of choices as to what to make my "last supper" of the summer vacation. I chose Antonio's pizza with extra cheese because it's baked right around the corner, and it doesn't require cooking. It hit the spot, but didn't manage to fill the cavernous pit in my stomach that's there because of what looms over tomorrow morning. I suppose it's worse for the kids, but honestly I've gotten too old to remember what it was like when I was the one going to sit in one of the little seats to make a fair comparison.
And so, my days of leisure come to a close once again, for the sixth time since I started writing this blog. My thanks to those of you who've been along with me on this journey since the beginning, and to those of you who stop by now and then just to see if I've cranked out anything worth reading. Frankly, there are times when what my fingertips produce here is just the cathartic the doctor ordered in terms of my own coming to grips with what I'm feeling and giving it some form of expression, and other times when I reread what came out of me and see how I totally danced around some nebulous emotion that I wanted to share but remained apparently clueless as to how to give it wings. Regardless, I appreciate the support of my friends here who struggle right along with me in trying to figure out sometimes what I'm thinking.
I'm shutting down my summer vacation of 2013 right now and packing it away. This will be the last post I write from this side of school until June. I hope it feels like the blink of an eye to me between now and then!