Saturday, September 7, 2013

Okay, now I'm ready

My relatively short summer comes to an end. Tomorrow is my first teacher day (now it's called professional development, which seems to me an awkward title). Students arrive in a bit more than a week.

An annual trip to the Grange Fair in Centre County serves as my transition from summer to school year.

It's a five-day retreat for me, with the kids, to a tent which has served as the base for reunions in my family since 1976. As we get older and as, for the generation of new parents, our schedules get more frenzied, it's an important moment for me to pause with relatives I don't see as often as I would like. It's also an interruption in my summer because, well, I can do nearly anything I want to do (see exceptions below), but those things are more difficult. Bathrooms are a walk. Getting to bed requires setting up cots. Cooking requires some creativity in a makeshift kitchen.

Cleanliness is a war. Hopping online requires patience as one tries to get onto a burdened 4G network (tragedy of the commons, anyone?) and fights to keep one's phone charged.

But the detachment from the normal grind recurrently surprises me. Every once in a while I laugh at the preposterousness of voluntarily living in a canvas tent rather than a house with solid walls. The peculiar twang of Central Pennsylvanians flows into the tent (lots of diphthongs). There's a sight I get when I walk in our tent neighborhood, of row after row of tents lit from within and above, and it reminds me that thousands look to this event as a way to catch up and recharge.
I enjoy the soft glow of the lights as I sit in front of the tent and catch up with siblings and cousins. I revel in pushing my kids to follow routines at bed time and meal time that keep the place clean. I laugh when I think that years from now they might see this place the way I see it, as a semi-detached, semi-primitive haven from a world of schedules, agendas, and worries.

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