The end of summer has always been a bit melancholy for me.
Every year when I was a kid, we would rent a house on Cape Cod for vacation. Crossing the Bourne or Sagamore Bridge, or even waiting in the car for my parents to retrieve the key from the rental agency, felt like a beginning.
Time went slowly in the best of ways during those weeks. I would be able to read through several books, sitting in a low chair with my toes digging into the wet sand as the tide moved up or back, necessitating a move every so often to be sure feet were occasionally splashed. Outdoor showers were the norm. Extended family clam boils with corn on the cob seemed to last and last. And naps were frequent. There was no sense of urgency, no thinking about the next day while the current day was in progress.
But then that last day would come. And this day went quickly. Whatever book I’d been reading lost interest, or perhaps I just lost focus. The sky looked different. There was even a change to the air. I could swear I smelled fall and school coming. And it would always seem much too soon that one of the adults would announce that we’d better head back. I remember the feeling of brushing off my feet with a towel in the parking lot before getting in the car, purposefully not doing too good a job, so that I could keep that sand with me even just a little longer.
I did not sleep well that final night. I thought. I reflected. I often cried silently (though I don’t think anyone knew). Early on the morning of our departure, I would clip a piece of rug from some unseen corner or peel a fleck of paint from inside a closet in my room. It didn’t much matter what it was, as long as it was part of the house. And I would keep these things in a small baggie or container. Once home again, it was days before I could put that keepsake away, leaving it by the bedside and looking at it until I fell asleep nights.
Even as an adult, I have an evening every year where I say goodbye to summer. I go to the ocean alone and listen. I think about that year’s fun and adventure, times spent with friends. I make no attempt to stifle tears that may come. They are good tears. I am thankful. Before I leave, I really do say goodbye, as if to a dear friend who is only going away for a while.
The end of summer brings other farewells each year, as well.
Though I’m no longer a kid (at least on the outside), my birthday is still a special time for me. But by mid-August, the day itself and the last of the celebrations with friends have passed.
Perhaps the most poignant farewells for me come by way of seeing students off to college. Seeing off new freshman marks the end of an era. It solidifies the fact that “my kids” are now adults, and our relationship will never quite be the same as it had been for the last four to six years. A new relationship is gained, but the transition is an emotional one for me nonetheless.
Today, I saw off two juniors, who are now adult friends. I had lunch and some good conversation with Tim (and, for those keeping track, yes, I had another ice cream with him afterward). Then I went straight off to help Chad pack and load up the little convertible that he and his mom would be taking out to Pennsylvania in a mere hour. And though I go out to visit these guys at their schools throughout the year, this always feels like the end of summer camp all over again. Things will change. For a time, we will necessarily miss sharing more of the little daily things that make up our lives. Late night talks by pools or in deck hot tubs or by the ocean, staring up at the sky without thought to the hour, will not come again until next year.
When these times come, I find myself thinking a slightly humorous though comforting thought: Better to miss someone you wish would stay, than to have someone stay that you wish would leave.
So I say my farewells. I will allow myself to feel whatever accompanies the changes, mindful of this also – that the pain of loss is directly proportional the joy allowed in and the love invested.