This is the best week in all the year to be an adult. This is the week that the kids go back to school.
We sympathize, offspring, for we went through it, too. Most of us would not be sophomores in high school again for all the tea in China, or care to repeat the applesauce-making lessons of kindergarten (What? You have forgotten your smock!) and would under no circumstance whatever return to German 201, Herr Prof. Scmidt presiding, a kayak on the roof of his car and malice in his spot-quiz heart.
Now, sending you off, we cannot but look back ourselves at the days of new pencils, and strange voyages through books and hallways, and of course we wish you well. Some of you are grown now, and the rest growing fast. As always, it is at the gates of the schoolyard that we must leave you.
"March of the Belgian Parachutists" worked in July, but only for one day. "Combat Friendship," the martial anthem of the U.S.S.R., was an ineffective replacement for August. Strauss' "Artist's Life" waltz, even at maximum stereo power, has now worked in three summers, and neither has the Marine Corps Hymn. Though these sounds of reveillebe sent echoing through their rooms from 7 to 8 a.m., the children sleep on. Nothing, no threat nor advisement, pummel or prodding, will get them up in the morning.
Nothing, that is, except school. This week they roll out, stiff in their new shoes and smelling of sharpened pencils, to retake their rightful place in kid society. The shiek of the Mickey Mouse alarm at 7. Eggs and sausage thereafter, by force if necessary. The tumbrels arrive at the door at 8:30. It is a far, far better thing they do than they have done before, at least since June 21.
Now the long, newspapery breakfasts of summer are over, and the morning table will be populated again by well-pressed progeny. A slight cuff will start the 12-year-old conversing normally in her three-phrase morning vocabulary of: "Uh huh," "I guess so" and "If Patricia's mother says I can sleep over there tonight, and her father gives me a ride, and I practice the piano double tomorrow, please can I do it Daddy if I clean up my room first?"
(Her 9-year-old sister's three phrases are: "Uh huh," "I guess so," and "If SHE's staying over at Patricia's, then I'M staying over at Sarina's.")
By 8:30 -- which last week found them still deep in the REM stage of slumber -- they will be gone. At 8:35 a.m., if the past is prologue, it will be discovered that one or the other has forgotten all or some of the following: library book absolutely due back today; lunch; Girl Scout dues absolutely due today; piano/music (lesson today); homework due absolutely today.
Paternoster, permitted a soliloquy on the Passage of Responsibility From the Ranks of Youth, will be well advised to savor it. In previous years he has often been discovered, at dinner time, to still have the peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches in the back seat of his car.
Each year is, of course, not the same. Only this morning I noticed that one child is now nearly as tall as I am. It was this same child, when I brought last year's Snoopy lunch knapsack from the basement, who looked at me like Princess Grace at a kielbasi vendor. The other one, who previously wanted nothing more out of life than another spring-loaded koala bear, has announced the desire to have her ears pierced. Suddenly, instead of kids, I'm living with a princess and a gypsy.
The gap widens every fall. I can see it even in their end-of-summer tans. Previously I could claim that color as a gift, given by me in some vacation snatched from the jaws of the office. But now they have got brown of their own accord, without my help, on unknown beaches in the company -- is it my imagination? -- of boys.
So do the household and the fifial rhythms change as bedrooms empty early again. I remember it, too, back when John Grambling's radio theme filled my parents' house with its school-days wake-up call ("Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile/Lend me a lucifer to light my flag, smile boys that's the style!").
It's time to face the music of September again, for all of us. NOW MOVE IT KIDS OR YOU'LL BE LATE FOR SCHOOL.