We’re walking, the four of us, along a trail through reservation land on Labor Day weekend when I start to cry. It’s mid-morning, sunny, and warm. A beautiful day. Still, there’s a flutter in my chest like an alarm going off.
I choke out the words to my husband, “I’m really anxious.”
The kids run ahead, distracted by the mud and the lily pads, while my husband tries to comfort me. There’s little he can do, though. It’s the end of the summer, the brief time of year that nurtures an environment of constant motion, that breeds the desire to fill each day to the brim.
For two months, the long days demanded stamina, flexibility, and alacrity. The new season will require more order, a calmer impetus. By inclination I sense this shift.
It feels good to cry.
Camp is over. Parents infiltrate the campus, directed to admire everything their children’s attention yielded throughout the summer. I take Mom to see the blue prints to my dream house, a class I chose based on my thirteen-year-old vision of my adult self as an architect. I enjoyed the class but forget to point out the unique features of my three-floor mansion.
Instead, I roll the sheets into a tight tube, and we’re out the door.
My gymnastics routine is scheduled for later, leaving plenty of time to wander about and look at other campers’ projects and watch performances.
It’s an unusual day, one lacking the regular camp agenda, and I have trouble deciding where to go next. My thoughts blur into the excitement around me, people being pulled in every direction. When Mom asks what’s wrong, I don’t have an answer.
“It’s okay to be off,” she says, and I nod.
Our parents are busy inside the cottage stripping beds, turning off the plumbing, and emptying the kitchen cabinets. We’re too young to really help, so my sister and I amuse each other by tossing rocks into the lake and listening to them plunk, a sound we can hear now that most of the motor boats are docked.
I consider changing back into my bathing suit even though the towels are already packed away. I’ve spent most of the summer in the water swimming, boating, and catching frogs. It seems wrong to neglect it on such a nice day.
“Time to go, girls,” Dad says. “Into the car.”
When we return to this cabin in the Berkshires, my favorite place in the world, almost a year will have passed. The house will reek of moth balls and cloves, deterrents to unwanted winter guests. It takes the whole summer for the odor to fade and even then, I wonder if our noses have just adjusted to the smell.
It’s part of the fun to give up certain comforts, like television and privacy, while living here on the weekends. The trade-offs are homemade blueberry pies and endless, lazy days in the sun.
As we drive down the rocky dirt road, no one talks. The farther away we get, the gloomier I become. On the main road, I think I’ve forgotten something, but realize there’s nothing left, just a still lake and an empty cottage.
My son finds a stick and throws it into the pond just like his older sister. They are engrossed in this activity, oblivious to their parents’ conversation. In a couple days, school will start. Kindergarten for her, preschool for him. New beginnings, new experiences to navigate. They may know this change is upon them, but I already feel it.
I’m excited and sad, but mostly alert to the emotional complexities of change. I’ve gone through this transition many times before. It doesn’t get easier, but that’s okay.
After I shed a few more tears, I tell my children it’s time to keep going and the four of us proceed down the path soaked in the late-summer sun.