09 August 2004

Too Early a Season

The first day of school is today.

After 20 years in the South, it still disorients me. For 13 years (sixteen if you count college), the routine was inviolable: school began in September, in public school’s case the Wednesday after Labor Day. First that week would be the holiday, then the first day of school, then the Fall Preview TV Guide. September was the universal school month, celebrated in magazines and books, linked inevitably with leaves starting to turn, the apples ripening in the orchards in the western part of the state, shorter days, and counting the days until Christmas.

My mom tells me they are starting school end of August now, too, but I can’t tell you how it astonished me when I first arrived down here and discovered school started in August. Maybe it’s because of the air conditioning in school. In Rhode Island August was still a raging inferno and you wouldn’t send a dog into those superheated airless classrooms. The first couple of weeks of September were bad enough.

Of course we didn’t get out of school until the third week of June, where the kids here are out by Memorial Day. Given the choice, I preferred school in June, which was noticeably cooler, than in terrible August. But it seems to me the date has "pushed up" in the past 20 years. I seem to recall the kids starting school the last week in August when I arrived here, now it's the second week of the month.

Of course they get more vacation time, or at least it seems, but it's probably a trade-off. We got only Thanksgiving and the day after back then; it seems now that they get the entire week. But here they don't get Columbus Day and Veteran's Day off, either. I can't imagine not having had Columbus Day off. This was the last hurrah, the final weekend the family could go to summer venues before it turned into winter-coat weather. We usually joined the thousands of "leaf-peepers" that weekend in enjoying the peak of fall glory up in southern New Hampshire and Vermont.

As much as I disliked summer heat and enjoyed most of school (except for math and PE and some of the science), I still used to stand in back of my door at bedtime before the first day of school and hum "Taps." ("Stop that," my mom would say with a roll of her eyes.) Well, I did at least until the summer I had to go to work. :-) Even algebra was better than work...

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