The first day of school in our house is not so much the celebration of the new school year's birth as it is the funeral of the lovely summer.
It's been too cold to swim for a while, but the cool off didn't mean dialing back the fun. No. It really meant it was no longer too hot to run screaming through the neighborhood like a stray dog squirted by the resident skunk or to grind forward up that hill on a bike to turn around and whoosh back down with a whoop of glory.
I, who had been keeping little noses to the grindstone all summer long, relented after the boys' cousin departed. It was just too sad to keep pushing. The two flourished those last two weeks--both growing out of shorts and shirts just in time for school. At the end of each day as the sun's last rays glistened on the paint-stripped metal bars of the jungle gym, their father and I corralled the boys into the house like sheepdogs nipping at the heels of the sheep (or “its” closing in for the tag). The bleating boys romped circuits over the playground finally tumbling sullenly through the screen door claiming sudden exhaustion and may never have made it upstairs to the bathtub without Daddy's arms hoisting them upward by the elbows and my shoulders propelling them onward by the butt.
Once stripped and deposited in the tub, the boys shivered, surrounded by their own cloud of filth--or topsoil as it may be. Daddy and I pondered whether the expression "from dust to dust," was really appropriate. It would appear, from the state of the tub, that "from dust to mud" was far more apt. And so began the pre-bath rinse. After what seemed like millennia, a primordial flood of the bathroom, and half a bottle of Old Spice scented “man soap,” they came out far shinier than they went in, and it was time for the nightly wrangle over going to bed, exacerbated by the absence of melatonin and the void of a place to be in the morning. In all the wrestling that ensued, we managed to sneak in much snuggling, a bedtime snack, some bedtime books (long ones, by choice of the big one), and perhaps a bed movie (or two). As the big one wanted Daddy, the little one wanted Mommy, Mommy wanted her own bed, and Daddy wanted peace, we played musical beds all night long, finally concluding that the four of us could no longer populate a queen-size bed comfortably (although some no-longer-little-enough boys would have liked to keep trying)!
In the misty morning of the next day, we descended in turns from our various resting places to, by the time I got there, cuddles and puddles (of juice, pee, or what have you), spilled cereal, eggs (still whole, thank you, Lord!) left on the counter for Mom to cook, and missing Wii-motes. Despite my aspirations to be a loving, peaceful mother, I fear that, in those pre-caffeinated moments, I met it all with general gasps of exasperation like, "Must you actually step on your brother's head on the way here? Couldn't you choose a foot?" to the one and, "Well, he couldn't step on your head if you would sit up!" to the other.
Yes, I am sorry to see these last weeks end, sorry to pack lunches instead of beach buckets, backpacks instead of travel packs. And as I crane my neck to glimpse the last vestiges of summer before it disappears from view forever to the tinkling accompaniment of the ice cream truck whose cola-flavored brown ice cream fakes the kids out for chocolate every time, a brisk breeze catches the hair on the back of my neck and beckons me to consider autumn. After all, the best may be yet to come.