We had a false autumn over the weekend. I spent both Saturday and Sunday morning at the Blue Bottle cafe on the corner, sitting at a table under a tree (oak? sweetgum?) in the back of the graveled patio.
These false autumns are almost more melancholy than the actual one that comes a month or so later. The season changes in general are melancholy. Life feels totally static. It’s always cold. Or it’s always hot. Then suddenly the air changes and you realize that time is rushing past you and life will be over eventually. And the two-day tease of autumn exaggerates this sense that life is a fleeting illusion.
Simultaneously, I’m experiencing a false autumn with my kids.
My daughter is about to start college. That’s a big enough deal. She’s only going up to Bronxville but nonetheless leaving the nest. However, for me this is a false autumn. I think. Sort of.
What I mean is that she hasn’t gotten married and taken a job in another state. She hasn’t really started adulthood. She’ll be texting every five minutes about classes she hates. I’ll be driving up constantly. Plus, the Sarah Lawrence school year is short compared to other schools. She’ll be home a lot.
But the false autumn of moving her out of the house for college is obviously a preview of the inevitable. Even if she boomerangs back, she’s not a child anymore.
And my 16-year old son has entered full wild teenager mode. He leaves every evening and tries to stay out all night. We’re currently grinding away at futile curfew discussions.
What no one ever tells you is that it’s all about the friends. Well, maybe they DO tell you. I just wasn’t listening.
Most of his friends have no curfew. If you are an editor at a cool magazine, nothing could be more uncool as parent than to expect your kids to come home at midnight.
The rest of the kids just lie. One morning I found my son and his friend searching the front yard for something. His friend had tossed his phone in a flower pot the night before so that “Find My Phone” would show my house as his location, while they roamed the streets all night.
(They finally found the phone in a flower pot in front of the house next door.)
But in a blink of an eye, my CHILD has vanished.
No one told me that the change is this … INSTANT.
It’s like waking up in the middle of the dog days of August to 55 degrees and a cool breeze. Autumn out of nowhere.
Of course, it’s already hot again. We’ll all sweat and run the AC for another few weeks. But then we’ll get the real autumn. Then the real winter.
And with my son, school will start. 11th grade. I’ll make him breakfast. He won’t be going out every night of the week.
But his instant and total switch to anarchy and independence means that childhood is done. I’m no longer the parent of CHILDREN.
That phase of my life is not literally over. But it has come to a poetic end in a flash. Autumn out of nowhere.