END OF SUMMER
It’s 11 PM. I was planning on going to bed, and I will. Soon.
But for right now, I am living in the moment and enjoying the noises that rise up to my home-based office from the packed basement below.
At least ten kids are smashed down there, gathered around the ubiquitous X-box and the international phenomena of a game, something called Fortnight.
The outside of our house is no longer approachable. At least six of them have driven their own cars over here, each very proud of his ability to now transport themselves whenever and wherever they want. (Or, better stated, whenever and wherever their parents agree that they can travel to. Until they all pay their own car payments and insurance–which is not a cheap thing for teenage boys in particular– all families have a lot of rules.)
Now the oven timer has buzzed, signaling that the frozen pizza is ready. Suddenly, a herd of elephants appears to be tramping up the stairs.
Our yellow lab comes up, too. It is her sacred obligation to accompany the teenage gang at all times. She and the Rottie have clear division of duties. The Rottweiler maintains her command post near the oven, moving seamlessly to the counter top area as the food is served. (They share begging duties.)
Tonight it is a group of seniors and a few juniors. But they are joined by son number one, who also has two college friends here.
Upstairs are two more, our own 8th grader and our 10th grade Spanish exchange student. She’s just arrived in the last week. We give her credit for taking the various in’s and out’s in stride. We know that it is not normal in Spain (or apparently probably in most other countries) for kids to spend so many nights sleeping at other people’s homes. This is a rather American thing, it seems. From last year’s experience, though, we expect that the exchange student will also happily join in the overnight-at-a-friend’s-house habit.
Other parts of our “culture”, if it can be termed that, might be a bit harder for her. She only has two sisters at home, no brothers. Being from a family of three sisters myself, I know that the level of noise is markedly different. Our meals were definitely “lively”. But they do not match the rambunctious nature our household achieves when there are mainly teenage boys at the table.
To her credit, she handled the constant talking and laughter. She didn’t bat an eye at the good natured ribbing and the normal pushing each other around. It was only towards the end of the meal, when the slingshots started to appear, that she dove for cover.
Their summer is fast approaching the end. This group is determined to squeeze every last possible second out of the remaining time they have of “freedom”. They rotate from house to house, sharing their good nature (and late night noise) with many different families. The actual group composition changes with which family is on vacation, or which sports tournament they are each attending, and, of course, the sport practice of the moment.
Tomorrow one will be up to head out to the high school for the bus; the soccer team leaves for their pre-season jamboree at 9:45. Football doesn’t meet until 6 PM to watch film from their first scrimmage. Often at least one or two has a job to reach, and they stumble out with sleep in their eyes.
Tomorrow being a weekend day, the rest will trickle out around 10 or 11. Typically, we offer some breakfast. My husband is well known for his “perfect pancakes”, and he loves to indulge them.
They are all on a countdown now. This morning’s SAT testing reminded several of them how close the school year is to starting. It’s down to days, not weeks, until they start back in at the high school.
Our college son, now a sophomore, heads out on Tuesday. Another of his friends stayed only for supper, and headed back home to finish packing. His car heads north tomorrow. The other two college freshman, still here tonight, leave the following weekend.
The windows are open. At least once tonight, the dogs will put their noses straight in the air, catch a whiff of something (likely a bear), and take off barking from window to window. The kids’ laughter and chortles will rise from the basement, up to the lower level, and even up to the top floor. Eventually, they will stomp by our bedroom to head to sleep themselves. The bathroom door will shut and open, each time with an audible click (or more), many times, before they are all settled in.
Tonight’s house is not for quiet and solitude, nor is it a place where its inhabitants can be assured of hours of peaceful slumber.
That will be for Thursday night. By that time, we will be down one son again. His girlfriend and his college friends will be away then, too.
Within hours of son number one’s departure, our Spanish student will have moved into the newly vacated bedroom. The late night laughter from the two girls sharing a room will be gone.
The second son’s posse of friends will all be sleeping in their own homes in preparation for the first day of their senior year of high school.
And by Friday night, after the football game and as we start into Labor Day weekend, the gatherings will resume.
But only for two nights.
Because by the middle of next week, school–and all its determined rhythms will have taken over our lives again.
Jill Stahl Tyler is parent to four again, no matter how many are through the house at any time. The oldest is a sophomore at college; the second a senior at the high school; the third an 8th grader at the middle school. Recently arrived exchange student makes number four. She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.