Itâs mid-August in the Lowcountry â that weird, bipolar time of year when the calendarâs shouting âback-to-school!â while the weatherâs whispering âback to bed.â
Surely even those without school children can sense the clash of energies in the air â the sudden, unnatural mood swing â as sun-burnished, sweat-drenched southerners of all ages reluctantly drag themselves away from their pleasant pursuits and relaxed schedules to once more join the ranks of the industrious.
The days are still long and languid and scorching. Stamina is in short supply. Even a Saturday trip to the beach sounds more exhausting than refreshing. (Itâs so far to Hunting Island. And you have to pack up towels and beach chairs and stuff. And deal with all that sand. Sigh . . . ) Lounging indoors with drawn curtains, AC, and a good book âÂ or maybe a tasty Netflix binge â thatâs what you long for, assuming youâre not too lethargic to long.
But, no. Chop chop! Gotta get those school supplies and those uniforms! Gotta pick up those class schedules and meet those teachers! Gotta fix that hair and put on those grown-up clothes and prepare to resume your role as chief homework harpy and bedtime enforcer.
Itâs all just too much. Too much, here in the soupy, droopy days of mid-August.
My only child is in high school now, so the demands are different. But as a mom, I still feel a duty to create a âback-to-school atmosphereâ at our house. This means providing dinner at a respectable hour, making sure it includes vegetables, cutting back on everybodyâs TV time, and getting my daughter off her phone before 3 am. The house needs to be cleaned regularly again, the alarm clocks set each night, and we should all probably start wearing shoes.
I just got tired typing that.
But maybe itâs just me. Some folks seem to have plenty of vim and vigor these days, especially when it comes to presidential politics. Just look at Facebook. People are practically hyperventilating. They are âterrified!â of Donald Trump and âhorrified!â by Hillary Clinton, either of whom, they assure me, will âdestroy America as we know it!â if elected. Blame it on my mid-August malaise, but I just canât work up that kind of passion at the moment. Oh, I can fear a falling sky with the best of âem â so ask me in a couple of months when the humidityâs subsided â but as of now, all these expressions of terror, horror, and impending destruction seem a wee bit over-the-top to me. A little hyperbolic. As the kids say . . . meh.
But one does like to stay current. I watched the Libertarian Town Hall on CNN the other night and that was more my speed. No yelling, no name-calling, no flame-throwing. Just two calm, reasonable men sitting on a stage, quietly answering questions. (Bless you, Messrs. Johnson and Weld, for not wearing me out.) Granted, this was not a debate, so there was little reason to get worked up. But even when Anderson Cooper asked tough questions â some you might even call âgotchaâ questions â Johnson and Weld remained cool and collected. Johnson even began one of his answers with the archaic phrase, âI may be wrong . . .â Now that â that! â provided a rare moment of mid-August excitement for me . . . a shock to my heat-and-rhetoric-addled system. I think I actually went from lying on the couch to sitting.
Since nobody offended a Gold Star family, banished a baby from the premises, told any audacious whoppers or started a riot, this event faded from the news quickly, and weâre unlikely to hear from these two fine gentlemen again. Moreâs the pity. Theyâre very relaxing.
Then again, relaxing is not what weâre after, right? Itâs back-to-school time, and we must snap to!
By the time you read this, the Summer Olympics will be well underway in Rio, and Iâm hoping theyâll provide the jolt of electricity we desperately need here at our house. Because âback-to-schoolâ is about so much more than just going back to school. Itâs about diving back into life. Resuming a routine. Stepping up the work ethic. Getting back on schedule at the gym. Using an iron. Getting a haircut.
Back-to-school demands an extreme attitude adjustment from the whole family, and group attitude adjustments are hard to make in mid-August. Itâs hard to muster that brisk fall feeling when itâs 98 degrees.
(If somebody would just put some pumpkins outside the Methodist Church or do a hayride or a bazaar or something . . . )
But back to the Olympics. (Sorry. My mind meanders in mid-August.) Iâm counting on these great young athletes to pull me out of my summer torpor. I felt that familiar ping of inspiration at the start of Fridayâs opening ceremony, though it petered out rather quickly. In my opinion, the production began in a dazzling flash of lyrical beauty, then deteriorated into a miasma of pop-cultural noise. (Take that opinion for what itâs worth. Iâm old. A lot of things seem like pop-cultural noise to me.) The parade of nations is always a thrill, but itâs so long . . . and who can stay awake that late in mid-August?
I hung in there just long enough to catch Team USA in all its brash, Polo-sporting glory. Many thanks to Brazil for calling our country âEstados Unidos,â which not only makes us sound far more poetic than we are, but bumped us toward the front of that endless line. Otherwise, Iâd have missed our team, and the corresponding lump in my throat. (I live for throat lumps.) Gazing upon the joyful face of the proudly flag-bearing Michael Phelps, I think I felt a flicker of that back-to-school spirit. Just a flicker, mind you, but itâs a start.
So come on, Team USA! Come on, athletes of the world! Itâs been a long, hot summer â in so many ways. We need you. Weâre counting on you. Wake us up, lift us up, fire us up, inspire us! Shake us out of this mid-August mood, Olympians. Whip us back into shape â body and soul â and get us all back to school.