I begin to feel it around mid-August. Lifeguards start to desert their stands and return to college campuses. Sunrise walks require a windbreaker and the late afternoon sun sits noticeably lower in the sky. Even beach reading material changes. Fewer people are scrolling on iPhones and flipping through vapid beach reads and tabloids. I notice literary classics in the hands of stressed-out high school students rushing to complete summer reading assignments, while parents are leafing through “Back To School” sale circulars and glossy magazines showcasing fashions in bold autumnal colors.
There’s melancholy in the air, as if Nature herself is mourning the passing of beach season at the Jersey shore. Like the tired and dry hydrangea plants, my sun-bleached hair and summer skin are in desperate need of deep conditioning and a new palette. Season beach badges and swimsuits are faded and worn, and we prepare to retire scuffed sandals and cover our polished toes with stylish boots. It’s as if the world is sighing, “It’s over, folks.”
But there’s something exhilarating and reassuring about this transition and new beginning. It’s sort of like New Year’s Day without the ice and post-holiday letdown. My kids are in their twenties, but the smell of a fresh box of perfect pointed crayons still transports me to the excitement of the first day of school—the clean start, the crisp new books, the joy of seeing my friends in one place again. Even commuters who have enjoyed the school bus summer sabbatical can appreciate the increased productivity and camaraderie of having their colleagues back at their desks, and the reassuring busyness of a full calendar and projects moving forward (not to mention the return of pumpkin spice lattes).
I still check out the school supply displays in Target and smile when I hear the school busses whirring through the neighborhood. We all needed a break at Memorial Day, but now we’re ready to resume a routine. It feels time to pack up the picnic and salad recipes, and return to heartier comfort food favorites. But the cracked season beach badge stays on my dresser to remind me that I have 8 months to look forward to buying new sunscreen and flip flops.