Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First day of school

Today, as the Troll and I sat at breakfast, we heard the voices of children traipsing up our street on their way to start a new year of school. (It pleases me that the schools in our town don't start until the day after Labor Day. It seems cruel and unusual to drag the kiddies back to school while it's still officially summertime.)

This time of year always makes me a bit pensive. For more than ten years after I graduated from college, I would always find myself growing restless as August started drawing to a close. Something about the shortening days would trigger some deep-seated drive in me, and like a swallow returning to Capistrano, I would feel the urge to go out and buy new notebooks and pencils and go decorate my dorm room and get my schedule and start my new classes. Which, of course, was a profoundly frustrating urge to have when I had no new classes to start. All I could really do about it was go buy some new pencils for which I had no real use.

This went on until two years ago, when we bought a house. That year, September came and went without stirring in me the longing to go "back" to a place that, for me, no longer existed. All the urges for change that fall had always brought got channeled into the process of fixing up the house, which at that time had only been our home for a little over a month and was still very much a work in progress. So I might have expected the migratory urge to return in full force the next year--but it didn't happen. In September 2008, I was so focused on insulating the attic and wondering whether we'd have a chance to build some permanent garden beds before the frost hit that the start of school passed right by me.

So this year, as the kids head off to another year of learning, I find myself musing about what this all means. Why did I feel the urge to go back to school each fall for so long after I had a school to go back to? And why did becoming a homeowner deflect that urge?

The best answer I can come up with so far is that because I spent the first 22 years of my life as a student (minus a couple right at the beginning), I came to think of fall as a beginning--a time for starting new things. So whenever fall came around, I would have that urge to start something new--but there was never anything new in my life to start on. So the whole urge just took the form of a helpless longing to start a new school year, to be given an assignment, to be told what to work on next. But one thing I've learned about being a homeowner is this: in a house, there's always something to work on. There's always a new project to be started. So now, when that fall restlessness hits me, it just makes me want to be up and doing whatever project is next on the list (usually something that I've been putting off all through the hot, lazy summer). I no longer need to go back to school and be given an assignment; I can come up with plenty on my own.

Or, to put it another way--I've become a grownup.
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