Posted by: Mark Nielsen | October 10, 2007

Summer Goeth Before a Fall

Officially, it’s been autumn for about three weeks, but because of unseasonably warm weather it didn’t actually feel like autumn until last Monday. It was the first of October, it was rainy, I’d had a good weekend which was now over, I was running behind in getting myself and Graham ready for school, and it just finally felt like fall… with all the negative connotations which that transition has for me (being such a lover of sunshine and leisure).

But I caught myself slipping into that bitter place and changed gears. I decided to turn that feeling on its head by doing some things to extend the summer, at least in terms of my *inner* weather. So I began a short unit on Frisbee games and skills with my P.E. students. What could be more summery than a game of Ultimate Frisbee? It’s been mostly fun, but it’s also been touch and go in terms of safety. Arming semi-cooperative eight year olds– or eighth graders –with hard plastic discs may be playing with fire, but I’ve never been one to shy away from fire anyway.

I read a Garrison Keillor column  today about the need to make just such a decision now and then: a decision to be cheerful, to take back your life, to smile despite the aggravation and look for silver linings in the gathering storm clouds. The column sets a nice tone for autumn, in my opinion.

At home, we’re surprised for yet another year that Graham is not enthusiastically embracing the whole Halloween thing. I’m trying to get him to think about what he wants to dress up as, but he either doesn’t get it, or doesn’t care. It’s weird. He likes candy. He likes pretending. He doesn’t mind getting out in the world to meet new people. But Halloween just doesn’t seem to be on his radar.

Speaking of holidays, though, for some strange reason, my son started talking about Christmas this morning. (Probably because the Menards we went to yesterday already has their Fake Plastic Trees set up, blinking obnoxiously.)

Graham wants to put up “the Christmas lights in my room, the ones with the star that helps me sleep.” Very cute, of course, except the lights definitely do NOT help him sleep. The old, blinking tree-topper star (which I think I inherited from my parents) only serves to keep him up in December. But who am I to go spoiling a small boy’s visions of sugarplums? If Christmas for Graham is all about the ceremonial lighting of his room, like his own private Rockefeller Plaza, then this we shall do. It’s important to mark seasons and transitions, which I think is the main role of most of the holidays that humans in every nation celebrate.

Plus, if a cheesy, rainbow-colored Star of Bethlehem over the door of his bedroom indirectly gets him focused on Jesus in December, instead of on presents or Santa or whatever else the culture throws out there to distract him, that can only be a good thing.


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