Things I like, back to school edition

A couple nights ago, because he agreed to marry me and will therefore be victim of my unanticipated proclamations forever and ever - get used to it buddy, although I’m sure you probably are already - J received news that I was “feeling a little unmotivated, but for no good reason,” announced, by the way, as I settled into bed with a murder mystery around 8:45 pm.

I mean, really. No good reason. We live in a new house, the kids are happily enrolled and thriving in a new school and life is decidedly easier than it was in years past. Due to these specific changes, yes, but more importantly, due to a very distinct feeling of settling in that’s been absent from our lives until now. How are we going to set up our new living room? No idea! But we are going to set that baby up and then hang out there for years and years to come.

No good reason. Except, as I contemplated the feeling once again this morning, I realized that there is a very good reason, one that will dissipate as September rolls on. The transition. The yearly ritual, from the whimsy of summer to the rigidity of a new academic year, marked by its telltale signs: shoes lined up next to backpacks; the removal of uneaten items from lunchboxes at day’s end (the carrots, you guys, come on!); the perusal of math homework and PTA announcements and ensuring the laundry is done in a timely manner because you can’t just put your bathing suit on and assume it’ll serve as acceptable daywear.

back to school.jpg

It’s a transition I like, I might add. All that newness, all those blank notebooks. But it had also been a very good summer, heady and unplanned in all the best ways. We saw seals in Cape Cod and told ghost stories in Cape May. We celebrated family and love and life and were occasionally very, exceedingly hot, attempting sleep above the covers and nearly losing our minds before I promptly ordered some window air conditioning units that I “didn’t think we’d need” this year. Which, it turned out, was incorrect. Just incredibly incorrect.

That, I think, was the feeling I was having the other night, tough to capture and name. Just a transition. Excitement for the new year but already missing those seasonal freedoms, like staying and waking up later. Meeting by the pool with a cold beer.

The cure, as mentioned above, is time, naturally. But also looking inward and forward, indulging in the cultural and practical items I’ve been enjoying as of late, as well as planning for future events that fit the coming season.

(I feel, as I type these words, that someone out there probably wants to point out that pumpkin beer is coming, in a move half-genuine, half meant-to-enrage-me, so fine, go ahead).

Anyway. Long intro. Happy beginning of the school year, all. Here are few things I’m excited about:

  • The other night I got to have dinner with some of my extended family without my children, a rare treat, allowing me to fully engage in the discussions at hand. At one point during the evening, I was sitting across from my cousin Sam, who is in his late twenties, and somehow (Sam, how?) we started talking about folk singer-songwriter John Prine, and how much we both loved him, which was amusing as - not to generalize here - but you wouldn’t have pegged us two as the John Prine fans at the table, considering there were older more experienced people there. Sam, to my utter delight, started listing lyrics and talking about themes, and I shared with him that the reason I love John Prine so much was that when I was doing an internship on an organic farm as an impressionable 18-year-old during my senior year of high school, the people working there told me I just had to listen to him as we were sitting in the hot fields squashing bugs with our fingers, and I did, a memory I cherish because it’s just the right amount of ridiculous. I told Sam and the other family members, innocent bystanders to our rapid-fire conversation, that they needed to check out the live version of the song “Angel of Montgomery” with Bonnie Raitt, which you can listen to here. It is not a happy song. But god, I love it so much, and am most certainly on the cusp of a personal folk music revival. Good luck, kids.

  • Another topic that night was how my Aunt Betsey and Uncle Mark are watching the British version of “The Office,” which, those of you who know me or have read this blog, know is my all-time favorite. This got me all pumped up as I realized, giddily, that they were going to get to watch Season One, Episode Four, for the very first time in their lives. And that I was going to have to watch it again for approximately the hundreth time, because there is nothing better.

  • The idea of throwing a midterms viewing party on November 6, which could be, depending on your political views, a really fun night, or a really awful one. I’m willing to take the risk. Who’s in?

  • A few notable books, as I finally regained the capability this summer to get through several paragraphs in a row without passing out cold or turning to binge-worthy television programs instead. I finished “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” by Jesmyn Ward, a difficult, incredibly important and haunting read, as well as “Life After Life” by Kate Atkinson, recommended by my always trustworthy mother, who told me it was so good, so different and so surprising. Correct, Mom. I’m still working on Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened,” mostly because I can only get through three or four words at a time in the Russia chapter before I’m like, “YUP AND THEN THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED, WAY TO NAIL THE TITLE HILLARY!” (I miss you).

  • I discovered a new podcast this summer called “Reply All,” which is about the internet, at least generally speaking, and which sounds like exactly the type of thing I would NOT be into, as we all know I’m not great at the managing online maneuvers. Or computers at all. Or even, let’s get real, my alarm clock. I stumbled onto an episode, however, and cannot get enough. It’s about how the internet intersects with culture, covering everything from everyday tech glitches to politics. I love the hosts and the way each episode cracks open both seeming non-issues and big questions, in totally fascinating ways, and with unexpected outcomes.

  • Ishmael by Rising Tide Brewing, which I got to have in Maine this August. Perfect by the pool or on a cozy fall evening. Not a pumpkin beer. Calls to mind a favorite work of American fiction, due a re-reading. Five stars.