August has rolled around.
Each month, each season even, seems to have its own calling card, some memory or idea, or feeling associated with that time of year.
September is when the first hints of fall can sometimes be felt in the air. October is filled with crisp weather and colorful leaves. November and December are centered around the holidays, January is a time to think of cold winter nights huddled around the wood stove doing indoor things…the list can go on and on.
But August is different. To me, it’s kind of a bittersweet month. It’s still summer, so the kids can have fun at the pool, do outdoor activities, families sometimes take a late vacation, and everyone can enjoy a last outdoor fling before turning their attention to school and the coming autumn.
At the same time, it’s kind of a winding down time of year. The hot weather is different, sort of a tired heat hanging over the land. Most of the time the best of the summer activities — July 4, camps, family outings — are behind us. Even in the newspaper business there’s often less to write about, at least from an institutional standpoint. Congress is recessed, the General Assembly has adjourned, local governing boards often cancel their meetings.
For me, this August is even more bittersweet. For nearly 22 years our house has been filled with children, from the time our oldest came into the world. As time passed our family grew to five kids, and we seem to have had a constantly revolving door as friends come over for playtime, overnighters, and in more recent years video games, joint-study work, and more grown-up activities.
That will be changing soon. On Aug. 24 we’ll be taking my 20-year-old to Charlottesville, Va., where she’ll be attending the University of Virginia. She’s already got two years of community college behind her, so her time at UVa’s undergrad program will be relatively short. Still, she’s moving out on her own and, as any parent who has gone through that knows, life will never be the same for any of us.
And on Sept. 7 my oldest, who is just a few weeks short of turning 22, will be getting married and moving near Roanoke Rapids. She’s stayed at home while attending college, so this will be our first time without her in the home as well.
I’m excited for them. The coming months and years will be filled with challenges and disappointments, times when life will be difficult and seemingly unfair, but those will be far outweighed by excitement and accomplishments, by pursuing their own lives and building families and careers and learning more about themselves.
As a parent, though, I can’t help but be a little melancholy about all the changes. I recall when I went off to college. For me, life changed, and there were hard times, but it was all great fun as well. Kind of like setting out on a great adventure into the unknown, experiencing new opportunities, making new friends, learning about the world. I never quite grasped how that left my parents at home, wondering, no doubt worrying, hoping I was okay, probably wishing they had done this differently, or done that with me more.
That’s where I am now, or at least will be soon. Spending my time hoping they are okay, worrying if I haven’t heard from them, wondering if I should have done things differently as a parent.
It won’t be all gloom and doom, of course. We still have three at home, so our house isn’t going to be quiet or boring any time soon.
Still, it won’t be the same, and it will definitely be a lot quieter around my house.
John Peters is the editor of The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1931.