On Friday, I will return to work after ten weeks of long walks in the forest, afternoon glasses of cinnamon iced tea with cookies, hours spent watching the birds at the birdfeeder, opportunities to make memories with my kids and grandkids and the blessed luxury of reading a book without watching the clock. Thus, I will return to work with heavy, dragging footsteps. Oh yes, I love my job; the kids are funny and warm and refreshingly honest and idealistic, and they teach me new things every day. But…
This is what teachers do: In April and May, when others are digging out of the winter doldrums and doing spring cleaning or home improvement projects, we who spend at-home time grading and planning lessons tell ourselves, “That project can wait until summer break.” But when school lets out, do we dive right in and start completing all those tasks we set aside for summer? No. For the first two weeks we revel in not having to live our lives according to a bell schedule. We sleep in till oh, say, 7:00a.m. Eventually, the true meaning of “vacation” sets in, and we begin to relax… and read… and have long, luxurious lunches with friends and dinners with family that have been postponed for weeks, sometimes months.
On some days, we actually make lists of those projects that need to be completed. In fact, I feel productive just for making the list. But let’s face it, if I am faced with a choice between spackling a mouse hole or taking my granddaughter to the beach, I’m going to opt for the latter every time.
This insouciant behavior does, however, eventually lead to sudden anxiety and a sense of panic when we realize—oh expletive! I have only one more week to spackle and paint and I wanted to get to the beach one more time and see one more movie in the theater and is there any money left for new clothes? (no) and I never did get to the Huntington Library this summer. Sigh.
I am especially guilty of the ‘not getting around to stuff,’ even though I tell myself every summer that I will go off the mountain to have adventures at least several times a week (Safari Park in San Diego to see the giraffes, the Sawdust Festival in Laguna to traipse for hours through the booths and chat with the artists). But more often than not, what I look forward to most is simply staying home, having lunch on the back deck with the cats and the bluejays, sitting in the front porch swing later and reading for hours as the sun filters through the oak tree canopy and the red-shafted flicker complains to the acorn woodpeckers.
I try to feel guilty about not spending more time on home improvement projects, but I just can’t. Because when the school year gets into its full, exhausting swing, I won’t be longing for the days of spackling and painting. I’ll be longing for those long, quiet days of uninterrupted time to read… and write.