Yesterday my eldest daughter
alerted me to the fact that in a few weeks she’d be returning to college
for her junior year. I sufficiently struggle in segregating the past
from the present, and in my mind’s eye I sometimes see her as seven,
or eight, running after her sister with scraped knees, all motion
and giggling and ponytail. But how can she be returning to school
already? She just yesterday came home. Or so it seems.
How could May, June and most of July have flown off the calendar so
quickly? She’s been home more than ten weeks now, and less than
four more remain till she again takes it on the lam, upstate, to the
frozen tundra where she pursues her higher education.
The encroaching school year,
as significant a harbinger of fall and the impending darkness of winter
as is the World Series and the turning of the leaves. And I
closed my eyes and tried very hard to remember the time of life when
summers did not hurry towards September, but rather lingered, like
nectar, savored and sweet and almost endlessly enduring.
We were well acquainted with
our own forerunners of the summer’s end. The appearance of coil
room heaters, the presence of sweatshirts and sweaters, the disappearance
of bathing suits, the soft yellowing of the leaves. The days
shortened, the light leaving the sky earlier and earlier as July turned
to August and August pushed off from the blocks to sprint towards
In the bungalows we hardly
ever saw a city paper, instead relying on the Times Herald Record
out of neighboring Middletown. Today Middletown is a bedroom community
of New York City, and colleagues reside there year round, commuting
daily to lower Manhattan, the Record tucked under their arms.
Even today, a glance at the Record front page brings me back to the
Catskills, and the summer, and the bungalows. Sometime in July—far
too early I believed to be civilized—full-page advertisements began
to appear heralding tremendous “Back to School Sales.” Back
to school? We’d only just left the dusty classrooms for the
Then, later, in August, as
camp ended and a week remained till we loaded the family sedan for
home, mom began her back to school clothing inventory. A full
afternoon of play was sacrificed to search Monticello, Liberty and
South Fallsburg for new sneakers—almost always Keds—and an
ugly pair of black lace-up shoes to carry us through the ensuing ten
The many harbingers over the
summer’s end—almost too numerable for recounting—have been included
in work done before—by others and myself.
I know that as I drive the
winding roads of Route 17, past Monticello, through Binghamton, and
through to her college in Cortland, the memories will wash over me
like a cleansing sea, taking with it, in its wake, years of longing
for those days of magic and wonder. For part of the ride I again
will be a child anticipating the thrills of pinball, ring-a-leevio,
bonfires, softball, swimming, fireflies and salamanders. And
I know that I am not alone.
After assisting my daughter’s
return to her off campus home, and spending a few hours with her (how
many chances for this remain, now that she is officially “on her own”),
I will turn the car back down Route 17. Passing into Sullivan
County I will look for exit 105B, which will lead me to Route 42.
Ahead, at the flashing light, by the McDonald’s and the Exxon station
and the bank, just before the gigantic new Wal-Mart, I’ll make a left
turn. Then Anawana Lake Road will bend and wind and turn till
it arrives at one of the last of the dowager resorts—Kutshers.
There, for a few brief days, at the Ninth Annual Catskill Institute
Conference, I will have a chance to share longings and memories with
friends and colleagues who still keep the faith.
What a fitting swan song for
summer, and such a choice venue. Re-examining the history of
a region that was so significant in our lives, at a time when they
wait to break ground into a new and different future—a billion-dollar
casino hotel hard aside Anawana Lake.
A final harbinger, then—the
huge bulldozers and earthmovers that await their chance to make over
the landscape and herald a new and exciting era. The past is
prelude, and the future is bright. May our children, and their
children, enjoy as golden and cherished memories as we ourselves have
been so blessed to recall.