Dear Loyal Readers, Family & Friends,
It seems impossible that it has come to this so quickly; an end to summer and the beginning of fall. How is that each time this happens, I’m surprised at the brazen alacrity of seasonal change? Maybe, instead, I should be surprised by how slowly I adjust. Nevertheless, this year feels particularly laden with new beginnings and mourned endings because tomorrow both Master M. and I are starting school. He, at the tender age of not-quite three, will begin preschool. And I will begin teaching Creative Nonfiction at a place here in Portland, Maine, called The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
Wasn’t it only a moment ago that I was holding him with only one arm cupped around his small body as he nursed? And just yesterday that we were driving across America as his two-month-old self and Hopper slept in the backseat, Greg Brown’s “Late Night Radio” playing on the stereo? And last week his first birthday—so close I can still taste the baked apple with a candle in it, which, frankly, sort of terrified him? And didn’t summer just begin the other day?
For us, this summer began in late May, when the months ahead seemed to stretch out as wide and as deep as the ocean and we spent two blissful weeks in our friend Dee’s tiny cottage on the water up in my hometown. By day we investigated the lives that for brief moments intersected with ours: crabs and scuds; real foxes and imagined bears; gray jays and baby phoebes. By nightfall, Dan was grilling everything we ate (and, though he doesn’t like to admit it, burning a good portion). That tiny ripple of time—just two short weeks-- on the surface of our lives feels, somehow, present enough we should be able to go back right now, this moment, and start over. But as with everything, we can’t.
Tomorrow, Dan and Master Himself will drop me off for my first day of teaching and continue on for M.’s first day of school. To say I don’t feel ready for my first—and only, so far—child to begin school, is an understatement. But last night Dan said something surprising to me. We’ve been running, lately, at a series of trails a little drive from our house where we can do about four miles if we wind around and then follow our footsteps back again. And on our way home each day, having timed our run to the tide calendar, we’ve been stopping at a little working waterfront off the road, full of fishing boats and sailboats, motor boats and dinghies, and we’ve been jumping off some big, pink granite rocks and plunging ourselves into the water. Just before I jumped last night, as Master M. filled his bucket and “made” a tide pool, Dan said, “I always want to recreate that moment of shock and exhilaration just when I’ve hit the water.”
And I said, “What? I hate that part. That’s what keeps me standing here, reticent to jump.”
“Nah, not me. I love it, “ he said.
I was stunned. How could anyone love that part?
Tonight, though, what I know about my son is this: He’s a little reticent to jump in, like me, but like Dan, he loves a thrill. And, we’ve been learning a bit about courage this summer: the brave way our new cat, Hemingway, sauntered into our lives; the leap my cousin Carrie took this summer, walking down the aisle in a white wedding dress; my saying “yes” to becoming a teacher and our agreement to send M. to school. So, I’m hoping that with his new tin lunchbox in hand (with --what else?-- a John Deere riding lawnmower on it’s face) and his goggie neatly folded in his backpack, he will jump right in, with only a tiny shiver of shock tingling through his limbs.
I just hope I can do the same.
Tell me your back-to-school stories!
PS: Below find a list of my fall & winter readings. If you know some folks in any of these towns, I’d love to meet them!
PPS: Dan and I watched Biutiful this weekend—what a heartbreaking, beautifully made and deep movie. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it! We’re also watching, tape by tape, Little Dorrit, the Masterpiece Theatre series based on Dickens’ serial novel—it’s quite good and a real escape at bedtime.
Thursday, September 22, 7:30 PM
Maine Women Write
Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland, ME 04101
Saturday, October 1
Bangor Book Festival
10:00 – 10:45 AM: Finding Home—Writing Memoir with Susan Conley and Melissa Coleman
Bangor Public Library Board Room
11:00 – 11:45: Readings and Discussion with Susan Conley and Melissa Coleman
Bangor Public Library Board Room
Bangor Public Library, 145 Harlow St., Slot 13, Bangor, ME 04401
207-947-8336 | firstname.lastname@example.org
November: MAINE WOMEN WRITE BOOK CLUB PICK
Bookstores across the state of Maine will celebrate the themes of family, giving thanks and America in Made for You and Me during the month of November.
For more information, find Maine Women Write on Facebook.