Discover more from Everything is Liminal
The end of summer, and the first of many lasts
The importance of building memory banks
7:20pm. The sky outside is the color of hydrangeas, the powdery blue ones that bleed towards violet around the edges. I’m always surprised at what time the sun sets around Labor Day. I know that it clocks earlier in increments as soon as the solstice hits, but when August passes into September, I’m forced to acknowledge it and the change always feels sudden.
8:00pm. The sky is already pitch black. I am not ready.
Currently in New York, we are at the tail end of a heatwave, the same one that blanketed the west a few weeks ago. Kids are back at school and the apartment is quiet again, but this heat is at odds with what makes sense in our storybook versions of Back to School season. The start of September can often be deceiving—it is still technically summer after all, but after what was a spectacular August of low humidity and delightful weather days, the return of heavy humid air is oppressive for the first day of school.
“Do you have any list of supplies you need?” I ask my new high school senior.
“No, I don’t need anything. Maybe a binder.”
“What about sneakers? The ones you’ve been wearing for the past year are falling apart.”
“No, they’re fine.”
It’s funny how unceremonious the first day of school can be the older your kids get. No more trips to Staples with a printed list of supplies, some of which were maddeningly specific, sending us on a scavenger hunt all over Brooklyn for different colored dry erase markers and marbled notebooks with red and green covers. I still have a stack of those unused notebooks in a drawer collected over the years, many of which were only a quarter filled by June. Still, shopping for fresh new school supplies is a ritual that demarcates the end of summer vacation and the start of Fall. It’s fun to organize all the supplies, and sharpening a box of pencils is infinitely satisfying. Who doesn’t love a new pencil with an untouched pink eraser still capped at the end? Who doesn’t love a fresh start? Without this ritual, the first day of school just crept up on us.
Or…maybe the kid and I didn’t want to make a big deal of the first day of senior year because it felt too loaded for all that’s to come in the next ten months.
If last year was the year of “many firsts” with our oldest child, then this is the year of “many lasts” with our youngest.
The last ‘first day of school’ photo snapped with my phone.
The last parent-teacher conferences.
The last PTA meetings.
Fifteen years with two kids in the NYC public school system and every new month this school year will be our last. The last September, November, February, and April. The last June of this phase in parenting.
We’ve already received an email notifying us of the graduation date. The countdown ticks louder.
This summer was a strange one again for a few reasons, but I feel lucky that we managed to slide in a family vacation right before our college kid went back to school. I know there will be more family vacations in our future, but I also know not to assume they’ll happen yearly anymore. We missed our Pacific Northwest visit this summer, but got a similar fix of big nature at Acadia National Park.
These are the memories we’ll draw from when life gets too frazzled and the day grows dark at 4:30pm. I love cities and the energy of city life, but our trip to Maine further affirms that I need nature to recharge—big nature that makes me feel small with a view of the horizon that suggests endless possibilities and what’s beyond.
We drove to the highest point in Acadia to watch the sunset and it made me realize that we saw so few of them this summer. There was something reassuring about sitting on top of a mountain with a small crowd of people gathered for the same reason, a collective experience of taking nature in at its most dramatic. Despite the complexities of this world, we can still rely on the sun to give us a spectacular show. Experiencing nature like this softens my cynicism.
In our family, I have one kid, like me, who will linger till the very last minute to take in one last ribbon of color in the sky or to search for one more rock to slip into her pocket before joining the other half of the family waiting in the car. We share the same solace in nature, seeking to steal moments away to sit alone to take it all in. Maybe she’s doing the same thing I’m doing—saving these experiences in a memory bank for later.
Returning to Maine was a trip of nostalgia. I searched for a spark of recognition in all the places we visited, taking a moment to recognize how young I was the last time I was here. I found the park with the gazebo overlooking the water where I met a group of random college students sitting under a big tree. They invited me and my friend to their house to crash for a few days. This era of my life was all about trust before my cynicism took root. Trust is imperative when traveling without an agenda and a place to stay. It might just be because this was a bygone era that seems innocent in comparison (I certainly wouldn’t be comfortable if one of my kids traveled in this way now) but I learned to let go of control and trusted the kindness of strangers. I truly lived day to day and hand to mouth. Honestly, I shudder to think now of all the mishaps (or worse) that could have happened, but I’m still here and my life was all the better for it.
This was my August of extreme hormonal mood swings, of irritability from chronic sciatica and sleeplessness. This has been my summer of dancing around the edges of parenthood, of reading the rhythms of my partners in a dance of negotiations, and in finding my own footing as I move closer to the next act. I remind myself that I won’t remember any of this summer’s angst in a few years time.
I will only remember the blueberry soft serves, the string of twinkling lights above me in the trees, and the magic of sunsets.
I hope there was some magic in your summer as well.
Meanwhile on YouTube…
I’m still working through footage of my Korea trip earlier this year, but have uploaded three travel vlogs on YouTube so far. I have footage for two or three more videos. Editing these vlogs take foreverrr, but I’ve enjoyed the process so much and and it’s allowed me to revisit these memories. This trip is such a rich memory bank. More than a few people have commented that I looked really happy on my IG stories I shared while away—and I was. The trip brought to the surface much of what I feel like I’d been missing in life for a long time: a sense of adventure, and the joy of unfamiliarity.
Below is the latest upload of my trip to Jeju Island. Always 100% better with music and sound on.