There are plenty of times during the year when life erupts into a full-blown fire drill. You can’t ramp up for the holidays, vacation, or the relatives without feeling like you’re on a toboggan ride. But in my world, the ultimate calendar chaos unleashes itself in August.
That’s when the giant Indiana Jones-size rock known as “Back to School” begins chasing me down my street. The rock is covered in No. 2 pencils, scissors, sporks and protractors, and hell-bent for Labor Day, mashing every flip-flop and suntan tube in its path.
One moment, our summer is Fourth-of-July fabulous and, the next moment, a Halloween catalog lands on our doorstep like a grenade, blowing August to pieces. Before you can say “low-odor dry erase markers,” Facebook erupts with "first day of school" photos featuring children cursed with early start dates. Target is besieged by high-energy, multi-tasking moms and dads that clean out the school supply aisles like locusts. Cell phones vibrate constantly as schools unleash torrents of emails, and everyone texts everyone else on their contact list to see who got what teacher—evidently to reassure themselves that their kids have not been placed in a friendless classroom.
Since I am a mono-tasker, the BTS phenomenon has a “Running-of-the-Bulls-meets-hurricane-evacuation" effect on my brain – and I panic accordingly. My reaction? Call it Summer Denial Syndrome. That means, if there’s going to be chaos, it’s going to my kind of chaos —full of corn dogs and kite flying.
I ignore the school supply list and instead seek out any family event listing I can find. Suddenly, a trip on the Goodtime III or a peach run to Port Clinton trumps a flu shot. I contemplate skipping our three teacher open houses in order to hit the Romanian, Egyptian and Greek Festivals. As the countdown accelerates, every school bus looks like a snow plow, and I find myself stumbling into The Beck Center, looking for late-summer art classes that don’t exist.
In the end, school hits my family like a cannonball splash. The day before classes start, my kids still sport dry, matted pool hair, filthy feet, and a firm belief that there’s a slushy in their future. I don’t have the heart to tell them that it’s over. All I can do is send them outside to listen for an ice cream truck that won’t be coming, and retreat to the basement where a stack of single-subject notebooks and a label maker await my surrender.
Tim Piai is a writer. He lives in Rocky River.