The other morning, coming back from the gym before work, I hit traffic. Traffic going down the small side streets on the way back to my place from the gym. Side streets that go by a high school. There was traffic because it was the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. It’s August!! Not even the end, but the middle!! What is wrong with these people?
Ever since I was a kid, Back To School time made me totally depressed. I think it was because I loved Summer so much, with all of my dorky little heart. I remember the feeling of freedom, waking up whenever we felt like it, playing outside all day, and eating dinner outside on warm summer nights. The feeling of not having to do homework after dinner was so liberating – instead, we were allowed to go out and play more before coming home when the street lights went on, to clean up and settle down for bed. When I was a kid, it was not the social norm for kids to go to some type of camp all summer long (at least not that I was aware of; no one I knew did it). We just used to play around the neighborhood, riding our bikes, playing games, amusing ourselves. If we were lucky, the one person we knew with a pool would invite us over to go swimming, a total luxury for us on a hot, humid Northeast summer afternoon.
The first indications that the school year is impending are those evil Back To School ads. They range from things like clothing (going to a Catholic school and having to wear a uniform every day, these made me feel especially left out), to school supplies, to snack foods that many parents will pack in their kids’ lunches (my parents were pretty strict about crappy junk food, so those ads made me feel left out too). It was what these ads symbolized that depressed me the most – the end of freedom, the return of slogging to school every day – especially a school that was overrun with mean nuns. It was like being at Hogwarts – with none of the magic – when Dolores Umbridge was in charge, times 10.
I’ve never before considered how much I genuinely love Summer, and how much, still, to this day, almost 20 years after graduating from high school, I hate Back To School season. I can’t stand the excitement with which these evil corporations peddle their wares – it’s like they find joy in the misery of children! (in my adult working life, I have since learned that Back To School season is one of the biggest retail selling periods, right behind “Dads & Grads” (June) and Christmas)
My 9-year-old nephew, who is like me in personality so much that it’s scary (my sister thinks she gave birth to my child by accident, and on days when he is driving her crazy, she will call me to say, “When you have my kid, we’re trading!”), seems to feel the same way. The other day was his birthday, and my sister told me that he asked her not to talk about going back to school until after his birthday was over. Who can blame the poor kid? The end of summer sucks. I know everyone complains about how quickly stores put up things for various holidays (Halloween, Christmas) seemingly many months earlier than anyone is prepared to think about them, but the benefit of it is that it gives you something to look forward to. Maybe these poor kids need to be reminded that the next bout of freedom is just around the corner, if they can make it to December and Christmas break. I am in their boat, crossing off days on the calendar to get to the next fun thing that doesn’t involve slogging to work/school everyday, when I, too, can relish in that feeling of freedom again.