Friday, September 30, 2016

The Last Beach Day of Summer

There is this moment.

It happens each year.

I find myself standing there.

Looking out at the blue, blue ocean.

Feet sandy.

Hair blowing in the gentle breeze.

The rhythmic crashing of the waves.

My kids are in front of me, laughing and playing in the water.

Pleasing smells of barbecue are in the air.

My wife sitting on our beach chairs, reading, dozing, sipping wine.

Grandma and grandpa having just left for the evening.

The sun has begun its descent as time ticks down on another day in paradise.

And it hits me hard.

This is the last beach day of the summer.

Where has the time gone?

Just weeks before, summer announced its presence.

We were free.

Days upon days upon days we lounged around in the morning.

No rush, nowhere to run off to, no plan.

Then we'd snap into action and pack the picnic basket, grab our suits and hit the beach.

We spent our days swimming, paddling, and building castles.

Skipping rocks, throwing frisbees and playing games.

Not a care in the world.

Everyone is just happy.

As much as I live in the present, I find myself thinking of the past.

Summers are jammed full of moments of deja vu.

It's like we've been here before, in these exact spots, doing these things together.

Only this time our little kids are older and bigger.

"We aren't little anymore," they correct me.

I just want to stay in this moment and ignore reality for a bit longer.

Forever, in fact.

I don't want there to be an end to this, but it will end.

Moments are fleeting.

I know that.

The sunset creeps on us as the weeks go by.

Earlier and earlier it gets darker and darker.

A chill enters the air in the evenings that we haven't felt in a long time.

Autumn is on the horizon.

I'm sad.

Full of melancholy and ice cream.

I'll miss this, this time together.

So much.

With the end of summer, comes long, busy, exhausting days.

Always tired, always rushing, always aware of the time.

Homework to do, things to practice, lessons, and shopping and bells ringing and cars honking.

So little time to just sit.

Or stand in one spot and breathe.

Feet in the sand.

Sun on my back.

We will be reduced to ships passing in the night.

Or some other cliched expression directly implying that we never see each other even though we do.

As I stand there on the beach, on this final day with the seconds ticking down until the final gasp, I don't want to leave.

Leaving means the end.

"'Til next year," a fellow parent calls as they exit.

He's right.

But, I often feel like I'm on borrowed time.

Next year, the kids will be bigger and older.

At some point they won't want to spend their summers dancing in the waves, jumping off the dock, hanging out with their dad.

At some point I'll be older too.

We all will.

And I won't have the still youthful, go go energy on these long days that I feel defines me.

These days will be but memories of those days when the kids were young.

Those amazing, summer days at the beach.

Those days that we felt would never end.

And that one day.

When I stood there, surrounded by my family, enjoying all that was around me, just not wanting to let go.

That final day of the summer.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Back to School


It's that time of year again.

The leaves are turning colour, the air gets colder at night and I'm getting ready to wear nothing but white seeing as Labour Day is almost upon us.

And, it's the final few days before school starts.

Time, predictably, has flown.

Just the other day, I was fleeing leaving school on the final day of work in June, ready to pick up my kids and meet my wife and literally eat some ice cream. The long expanse of summer was in front of me and I almost believed that it would go on forever.

The past two months have been a spectacular combination of lazy mornings, late evenings, throwing frisbees, family barbecues, playing tennis and slow, timeless afternoons flaked out on the sand with the ever present melodic gentle waves providing the soundtrack.

And now? Now, it's about to get real...again.

Soon the alarm clocks will have to be set, checked and double-checked, outfits that don't give others seizures prepared the evening before, and detailed schedules arranged and organized down to the very minute including lessons and activities and appointments that suck up every ounce of free time before rinsing, gurgling and spitting them out.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I feel like I've been here before.

42 times before, to be exact.

For the majority of my years on Earth (plus some of the years when I was stranded on the moon), as summer ends, life in a classroom resumes.

As beach blankets and sandals are stored, backpacks and pencil cases are dusted off.
As sunscreens and sunburns and the sun itself become but a memory, the rain begins to fall with great regularity.
As life transitions to math homework and spelling tests and notices from parks and playgrounds, courts and surf, it just feels right even when it feels so wrong.

It's the order of things.

It's my personal, life-long order of things.

It's the way.

From Tiny Tots to preschool to elementary to secondary to university to teaching to a masters degree to counselling to having my own kids and wife all decide to strangely go to school as well that I'm choosing to see as a complement, September has meant school.

Aside from a year of travelling, a year of exchange teaching in Australia and that amazing year when I was one, the end of August has always indicated one thing; pencils, books and teacher's mostly really pleasant and encouraging looks aside from those times when I didn't listen and follow instructions and, thus, deserved whatever I got (okay, that was three things...maybe I made a mistake or maybe I was practicing my division skills. Think about it.)

Not that it's all bad. Seasons come and seasons go. To attempt to refute that would be an exercise in futility unless you knew some of my friends. Autumn is my favourite. Mornings are crisp, days are warm and it is easier to sleep in the relative coolness of the breeze. And I enjoy my work, the kids love school and my wife is like a rabid attack dog that rips strangers to threads, only the type that enjoys teaching teenagers about science and math.

And the first week of school is always exciting.


New clothes, new students, new beard (that's an inside joke, that makes much more sense when you look at the place on my face where a beard would traditionally be worn, and even then, it's just not that funny a joke).

The first few weeks fly by as the family literally springs up ready to learn. "We don't miss summer at all," we tell ourselves in unison like an almost-unwatchable family from a completely-unwatchable sitcom. Its all going swimmingly until we speed over a speed bump one particularly tough morning when I get up after a horribly inconsistent sleep that makes the use of the word "sleep" ironic at best.

You know those mornings, where you burn the toast and scald your hand and pack a set of lunches that NO ONE WILL EVER EAT! The kids have magically devolved into immovable, unrouse-able, barbaric, do-not-disturb beings (still cute, though) that will never be able to get up, eat breakfast and look sort-of-presentable within the next 45 minutes. Every moment from the second I wake up at 6:30 until I somehow arrive in my office the second the bell goes to start school is jam-packed with the panic of being late which goes a long ways towards explaining why I frequently spill my lunch.

Afternoons are passed, in a stupor, gazing longingly out the window as a smiling woman goes for a jog, an old man playfully walks his dog and the sun beats down on a seasonably warm day that would easily be mistaken for summer if I wasn't trapped, sweating in my office.


Was I ever so dumb to be glad that summer was over? I look at myself in the mirror and decide that, yes, yes I was. I would smack that adorably, sad, dumb look off my face if I wasn't so adorable and dumb.

Gone are the wonderfully laid-back mornings of a few weeks ago.
Gone are those lunchtime debates over "how should we use the next 5 hours today?" "That's right, any way we want!"
Gone is the flexibility and freedom and fiduciary duty (I know, I know - it makes no sense at all here, but I needed a third "F" word to use in this spot and it seemed the "funniest". Don't believe me? You try saying it out loud a few times without laughing. Note: much funnier when wearing a large set of fake eyebrows.)

But, time waits for no one.

You know who else waits for no one? That was an actual question. I really don't know.

I like school, I do. Though if it comes up in court while I'm being attacked by a tall, dark, handsome, legs-for-days and exotic-looking attorney I'll deny all plausibility (always wanted to say that before). But, I do like it.

I've always felt at home in a school, but never enough to actually make it my home, and once back in the flow of the routines and subroutines and sequences of program instructions that perform a specific task that almost make it seem like I'm actually inside of a computer (thank you, Wikipedia!) it's all good. 

It is just so jarring when summer comes crashing to a halt and I have to wear actual shirts with actual sleeves (in the summer, I'm quite anti-sleeve) and shoes and comb my hair every morning!?!? (to be honest, I use my hands to carefully arrange my locks as well as the hairs on my head).

So as I sit here in a cafe on a Friday afternoon I am both aware that I won't have the luxury of doing this again for months, but also that I believe I'm ready for what inevitably comes next.

Summer, it's been good.

We had fun, you and I.

You tickled my toes, wrapped me up in your warm arms, helped my world glow and made me feel young again. I'd call you the father that I never had, but that would make things weird and awkward (especially when I hang out with my actual father who is doing his best, thank you very much. I mean, he's no summer, I'll grant you that, but...I think I'll stop before I go too far).

Take it easy summer.

You deserve a break, until next year.

I can't wait.