Greetings students, parents and assembled faculty! It's that time again. Time to peel off the cockleburs and brush the dandelion floaties out of your hair, time to say your goodbyes to the kind folks at the Cajun Sno trailer for another year, pick off the last of the summer ticks and reacquaint yourself with shoes. Summer is winding down like a clock, as it should, as it must before California manages to burn flat to the ground and Arkansas melts into a puck of skull-studded slag glass under the punishing sun. The kids, kindergarten to college, are headed back to school.
For parents, it's a joyful time for sure. We're probably supposed to say it's bittersweet or some such nonsense, but being a parent lo these past 18.5 years, we'll just cut the bullshit and say joyful. For those whose kids are too young to stay home by themselves, the end of summer means an extended end to workday-long daycare, which — and we haven't done any research on this, though we're sure it's true — is more expensive than having your children frozen in cryostasis for three months by Elon Musk. For those whose kids are old enough to stay home by themselves during the summer: no more staggering in from the office to find the cabinets have been cleaned out as if by a horde of starving refugees, your beloved children clinging to your pant leg the moment you walk in the door, crying: "But mommmm, there's nuttin to eeeeeeat!" Junior was always prone to eating not only everything in the house that could be prepared by microwave or toaster, but also the one ingredient we needed to make whatever we'd planned to cook for dinner that night — a can of chili beans, a jar of mushrooms, every speck of black pepper in the house — thus requiring our 10,000th run of July to Kroger up in Hillcrest, to loop and loop in the shimmering heat looking for a parking slot in the smallest and worst-designed parking lot in the known world, scowling and being scowled at by all the other people whose children ate everything in their respective houses, even the 4-year-old can of water chestnuts they bought for that recipe inspired by Pinterest. All The Observer wants to do after work in the doldrums of summer is come in, strip down to our boxers and Tony Soprano-grade undershirt, have a drink with ice in it and eat whatever we were going to make with those mushrooms, damn it. So, yeah: The end of summer is a joyful time. You can admit it, too, if you want. No shame!
Still, it's a strange one for Yours Truly this year, being that Spouse and I are sending Junior off to college. We say "off to college" because that's what you say, but it's not really "off," just across town, where he will be a Donaghey Scholar at UA Little Rock. It happens to be the alma mater of his dear old Ma and Pa, who met by literally running into each other as Future Spouse was walking out of a men's restroom in Stabler Hall, having ducked into the wrong pissoir after a particularly harrowing class. Meeting a woman coming out of the men's john was intriguing enough that, all these years later, here we are, as is Junior.
There's exciting times ahead, kids! School projects and science fairs, figuring out locker combinations and macaroni art, Halloween projects and Thanksgiving projects and construction paper Santa Clausi galore. By this time next year, maybe Junior will have bumped into his own lovely lass coming out of the wrong crapper. Or lad. We're cool with whatever floats his boat. But no matter the case, here we all are again, parents, buying notebooks and school clothes, getting them haircuts and school physicals, taking one last photo before putting them on the big yeller bus. In the grand scheme of things, sending your kids off to school is one of the most optimistic things you can do short of having them in the first place, a tacit nod to the idea that no matter how screwed up and Trumpified the present seems to be, time is on the side of these youngsters and, if they're going to create a better future with Medicare for All and less war, cheap college and free daycare, Social Security and really great nursing homes for all of us old farts, they're going to need an education. As for The Observer, though, we'll just be happy to eat our water chestnuts in peace.