fall and falling apart

I feel like it’s been ages since I really blogged. The truth is, summer drew to a close, we took a big trip to Colorado to visit family, then my grandmother unexpectedly passed away and we rushed home for her funeral. Since then, I have felt out of sorts.

fall arrives and I fall apart

A big reason for these feelings is obviously just dealing with an unexpected loss. Sure, everyone knows they will eventually lose their grandparents, and I feel blessed that the girls have gotten to know three of their great grandparents for at least 3 years now. But I also think I just expected my stubborn, sassy Memaw, LeaEtta, my Etta’s namesake, to always be there. For most of my childhood, Memaw and Pops (who died the summer Jon and I got married) lived next door to us, in a house my dad built for them. And for the last several years, Memaw lived with my parents. She was a big presence in our lives, and even as she lost her hearing and got a little more confused, she was always watching Etta and Claire play with a great big smile on her face, especially when they were giving my dad or me a hard time. “My mama and daddy would get such a kick out of them!” she’d say. I can bet that she’s currently telling her mama, daddy, and my Pops all about them as I type. I’m glad my last memory of her is sitting on my parents’ porch, her cracking up because my dad was pestering Claire and making her squeal, and Claire was sticking her tongue out at her Poppi. She loved us all so much. I inherited her love of lipstick, her shopping habit, her stubborn streak, and her tendency to tell it like it is. And I’m so glad one of my baby girls inherited her name. Here’s a relationship tip from Memaw: If you buy new shoes, bring them home and put them in your closet. Then wear them a few weeks later. If your husband asks you about them, just say, “Oh, I’ve had these awhile.” Note: I have a feeling my Pops never really cared about her shoe shopping habits, but I do think she enjoyed feeling like she was pulling one over on him.

fall and falling apart | the adventures of ernie bufflo

It’s not just loss that had me reeling a bit, though. New seasons bring new rhythms, and it’s taken me a few weeks to feel like I’m finding a fall groove. Summer was full of hanging out with mama friends and their kiddos, but back to school and new therapy routines and back to dance class mean less of that this season. On top of that, Jon was working pretty much nonstop since we got back– that’s what happens when shift workers take vacations, all the shifts they missed have to go somewhere, and this meant he worked all of Labor Day Weekend, too. That weekend, I admit, I got rather mopey about how everyone else seemed to be having family fun, and the girls and I were stuck at home, rather tired of and utterly bored with each other. I felt snappish and sad.

But then a miraculous thing happened. A cool front moved in. Fall arrived, and with it, highs in the 70s and 80s, instead of the high 90s. We opened up the windows, we spent some time outside, we got a Zoo Day with friends, we picnicked in the park, and suddenly I feel like I can breathe again. I’ve been going through closets and pulling fall clothes to the fore, pulling out things that no longer fit my growing-like-weeds girls, feeling productive instead of pouty. We will find our fall groove. All is not lost, no matter how I might feel after too many days home alone with three-year-old twins. I may not be giddy about pumpkin spice lattes, and I may be attempting to resist the urge to jump into the cozy clothes I’ll be oh-so-tired-of by February, but I’m happy about getting to spend some time in the sunshine with my golden gals. I’m ready for this change after all.

fall and falling apart | the adventures of ernie bufflo

fall and falling apart | the adventures of ernie bufflo

octohhhber

I took this photo out at the beach last October.  The cute little girl was a European tourist.
I took this photo out at the beach last October. The cute little girl was a European tourist.

Charleston in the summer can be pretty brutal.  The humidity in the air gets so thick you can literally see it in a haze around the moon.  Temperatures rise into the high 90s and stay there for weeks. Months.  At least we have the beach! we say.  When friends from outside the South come to visit and marvel at the oppressiveness of our summers, the way the water in the air seems to cling to every cell of exposed skin, the impossibility that it’s not somehow literally steaming what with the wet and the heat.  Oh but you should be here in October, we say.  October is the best month of the year.

Last weekend it was 88 degrees and we were out at Folly Beach.  But October was coming, sneaking up as leaves began to fall in fits and starts, one at a time from the trees.  My dog Bessie snatches this falling foliage like it’s a snack, dropping like manna from heaven, but she also enjoys eating grass and vegetation of all kinds, so shes’s a weirdo.  October was coming.

And indeed it did.  On the verrrrry last day of September, the temperature suddenly cooled off, to the point that I had to break out a cardigan to wear on my commute.  Right on schedule, October has arrived.  And it is glorious.  I feel like a Romantic poet all stirred and uplifted by the beauty of my environment.  If I weren’t such an awful poet (truly), I’d be composing sonnets on what happens as September sets and October rises like a harvest moon.  Instead I’m daydreaming about bike rides that don’t end with me flopped in a sweaty heap under the living room AC vent, the dogs licking the salt off my skin as I swat them away, laughing at their tickling tongues.  I’m thinking about oyster roasts, as they say the season is finally back in full swing.  I’m itching to go camping, maybe on the beach, maybe up in the mountains where we might actually see some fall color.  I’m wondering when is too soon to bring the boxes of sweaters down from the attic, afraid of a last gasp of summer that might try to hang on, and keep me in sundresses and flip flops. I’m eagerly anticipating what fall goodies will be showing up in our CSA box, though slightly worried it might be an endless stream of mustard greens and beets.  I’m watching for my tan, accumulated over beach weekends since April, to start to fade.  I’m looking forward to October.

Ohhhh, October is here.

no more school? no more books?

Dont you just love...fall? It makes me want to shop for back to school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.
"Don't you just love...fall? It makes me want to shop for back to school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address."

As July draws to a close, and August rolls in on a heat wave, the college campus where I work is beginning, after a dormant summer, to bustle with activity.  Students are moving back to town– I saw a station wagon with a mattress strapped on top driving nearby while out on my lunch break.  Professors are starting to ask me, “How do you work the new copier again?” as they anticipate running off reams of syllabi to hand out to classes in a few short weeks.  It’s the time my dad used to call “the most wonderful time of the year,” a catchphrase he picked up from an old office supply store commercial, which featured parents singing and dancing in eager anticipation as their kids shopped for school supplies and prepared to be someone else’s problem for the majority of daylight hours.  My dad had something for a flare for the dramatic, and would re-enact the commercial, dancing down the aisles of the office supply store, riding his cart like a chariot, singing the usually-Christmas song, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”  Of course, my sister and I, sad to see our summer vacation come to an end, would roll our eyes and trudge through the store dejectedly.

Now I’m wondering what the hell was wrong with us.

Now, I don’t need a Facebook quiz to tell me I’m Hermione Granger.  I’m a hand-raising, answer giving, note taking, supernerd who thrived in school, loved making good grades, and just generally liked learning things.  I was good at school.  Still, I didn’t realize until oh, about a year as a post-college working stiff just how wonderful school is compared to “real life.”  The difference is all in the feedback loop.

In school, you regularly receive grades, so you know if you’re on track, if you’re doing well, if there are areas you need to improve on.  Moreover, if you’re a good student like me, most of the feedback you’re getting is very positive.  This is in no way true of most of my experience in the working world (until my current position, where I have the world’s best boss, which really makes all the difference).  Generally, in the working world, no one is going to say anything to you about how you’re doing until you screw something up.  The only time you’re going to get feedback is when someone has something negative to say about you and the way you do things.  You can show up on time, perform all your assigned tasks, and you’re not going to hear from anyone until the day some jerk gives you zero notice to pull something together and you miss a deadline for the first time in six months, and then, boy are you gonna HEAR ABOUT IT.  If you’re someone generally used to being the best, to being praised for your efforts, this is REALLY hard to take.  I’m beginning to see why some folks become the much-maligned “professional student.”

So, despite having graduated college 2-ish years ago, eager to throw off the shackles of academia and set foot into the world a free, adult woman, I find myself really missing school.  I miss racing to read through assigned texts and then sitting around tables discussing them in seminars.  I miss picking out paper topics, poring over journal articles, and churning out research papers, 4-5 pages per hour.  Yes– I wrote so many papers in college that I know exactly how long it takes me to write them, provided I’ve done my typically extensive prewriting process.  I miss school.  I was good at school.  With school I know who I am and where I stand and what I’m supposed to do.

Now, I’m sure some are saying, well, if you like school so much, why not just go back?  The problem is, I don’t know what I would go back to school to study.  Some days I dream of studying English, other days political science, others law school, and still others, social work.  Unlike my husband, who has always been relatively sure what he wanted to be when he grows up, I have reached the age of 24.5 and still have no idea.

So I’ve decided to dip my toe in the water.  As a college employee, I get to take one class free each semester, and so I’ve been admitted to the Graduate School as a nondegree student and will be taking a 500 level English course on 18th Century Women’s Writers this fall.  I’m eagerly sharpening my pencils and comparing prices on the texts.  Who knows, maybe if I like it, I’ll make that a DEGREE student.  Anyway, I just ordered myself a Moleskine academic planner, and if you listen very closely you can hear me singing, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

Image via Flickr user Merelymel13 who just so happened to quote one of my favorite movies in the caption, prompting me to use that caption as well.

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