Four went back to school last Monday and Eight’s first day was Thursday, so I had a few days alone with Eight and then Four stayed home on Friday with a cough and a very mild fever so I got to spend a day alone with him, too.
The weather cooled around the same time, and it is a true September, not cold but with that familiar nip in the air and shorter afternoons. We are busy busy busy but as soon as we have some time to spare, I catch Eight on the couch with a book and Four runs up to his room to play superheroes.
This year we have more activities and Eight is supposed to have more homework, and I am still training for my first marathon (still!) and so the days are never long enough to fit everything in. The familiar feeling of too much to do has already come back and sometimes I wish we could stop it all, and then I remember that we had the summer for that, and who would want to live an endless, idle summer anyway, so now I guess it’s time to find a way to fit it all back in.
Familiar is the right word for it: the busyness of our regular lives is familiar, but there is something else so familiar about the fall, returning to school, needing a jacket in the morning, spending more time indoors. And despite running left and right to get it all done, there is something so comforting about the routine being there again after the long summer break. It was there all along, waiting for us to come home, and now our mornings are just like they used to be: waking up, having breakfast, running late.
And our neighborhood was here too: the shopkeepers and the women at the old-fashioned bar where the boys get their dainty ham sandwiches for a Sunday snack. The grand trees in the park, the smokers who use the entrance to our building as their personal smoking lounge, the family from China who run the tiny hair salon across the street.
Which brings me to another thought: I had been saving up to buy an apartment, most likely in another neighborhood, but returning home to our rented flat only confirmed what I had suspected while we were away: we can’t leave this neighborhood. It is home now even more than the way our little house in the mountains had come to feel like home to me. This apartment is hundreds of years old and the floors are cracked and uneven and some of the window frames could stand to be replaced, and we often bump our heads on the low ceilings, but we kind of love it here, and it is home, really really really home now, after only two years.