Dog Days

Young blood must have its course, lad, and every dog its day.

-Charles Kingsley

It is the last, sultry, sticky, week of August.    Our old dog, Maggie, keeps low to the ground with her belly flattened against the cool ceramic tile floor in the family room.  Smart dog.  Today I felt like joining her.  When she isn’t passed out on the floor, she paces from room to room, looking for both kids because she knows that things are about to get pretty dull around here again. Her kids are going back to college.  Yesterday, before the Boy left, Maggie let him smother her with Boy kisses and got one last good ear scratching. Today, she is restless and searching and kind of morose, missing something.  Missing them.

Me, too. I’ve been remembering other Augusts when the dog and I were both a lot younger and less inclined to mope around than we are today.  Augusts when we welcomed the start of new school years and the peace and quiet that followed.  Oh sure, the kids pretended that they wanted summer to last forever, but I knew that they were getting bored. They were just as ready for the familiar routine of school and activities as their mother was.

Fresh starts are good.  And nothing says “back to school” like a pile of new notebooks, a pencil case, and a big pink eraser.  I wonder how many boxes of crayons, pocket folders, and mechanical pencils I’ve purchased over the years.  I do know that when we moved the last time, I must have found about seventy markers in every color of the rainbow.  Why did I keep buying new packs of the darn things all of those years?  And then there was the yearly “I need a new backpack” conversation with a particular little fashion conscious female child who always seemed to have a perfectly logical excuse for why the previous year’s model just wouldn’t do. Her brother is a junior in college and he is still using the same backpack I bought him when he started the eighth grade. Maybe it all evens out in the end.

Now that they have good summer jobs,  they do not ask their mother to buy their school supplies and there was no mad dash to Duluth or the Twin Cities to go school shopping, either.  They were making their own money, not spending mine! Besides, they are finally at the age when they are trying to impress people with their newly acquired knowledge instead of their blue jeans.  This is good.  I have cleaned and rearranged my home office and will go back to the task of teaching college English to the sons and daughters of other mothers and fathers while the dog sleeps on the rug near my desk.

If you are a parent of young children, when you take those first day of school pictures for the scrapbooks this year, pay really close attention.  Those little kids of yours have probably been driving you nuts for the past month.  But on the first day of school, stop and really look at them. Admire your freshly scrubbed, starched precious moppets. The ones standing there all excited with broad smiles and sharp new haircuts.  Smell them if you can get away with it. Compliment them on their choice of  first day of school outfits right before you give them that hug and send them on their way.  Do this even if you are planning to run inside the house, crank up the stereo  and dance a jig with the dog as soon as the bus pulls away. Time passes much too fast in the life of a mother of small ones.  Much, much too fast.  And you are going to miss those little characters even if you ultimately end up with seven extra pink and purple backpacks and seventy magic markers once they’re grown.  Trust me on this.

It is the last week of August.  Dog Days.  I think a mother said that first.

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