31 August 2009

Smoke from a distant fire (still)

The Station fire continues to dominate everything down here, from the weather to what passes for television news in Southern California. The forecasters kept telling us it would get cooler, but now the heat is expected to remain through Thursday. Last night, some talking head said that the fire wouldn't be contained until mid-September. And watching it rip toward Acton, I don't think anyone doubts that prediction. Although crews are coming in from other places, I cannot imagine how wearing this is for the men and women fighting the fire on the front lines. The fire is burning in very rugged territory.

Early fire season, early flu season, and a hurricane that is nearing Category 5 heading toward Baja. I'm just waiting for the earthquake, and don't for a minute think I'm joking.

Though everything else is early, school is starting late this year. Usually the kids are back at the end of August, but by some amusing twist of fate (or more likely, economics), school does not start until tomorrow. My two are dragging themselves around rather mournfully, as they did for a good part of last week, while we shopped (my favorite!) for uniform pieces, school supplies, and books, and I rebuilt the daughter's computer's operating system. Which only took 4 days.

So here we are. Tonight, I make lunches. Over the summer I trained them (by not offering to feed them) to make their own lunches. As I'd hoped and planned, their skill sets did increase, with more cooking and more cleaning and learning how to grocery shop. But when it comes to school lunch, it's just simpler if I do it. There is no murmuring or fuss; they get what I put in the box. Which is usually wholesome and plentiful, though not excessive. Tomorrow, the daughter will have pasta with marinara, a Granny Smith apple and chocolate milk, while the son will have ham and cheese on rye with lettuce (his request), lemonade, dried apricots and Newman's Own chocolate mint cookies. I remember the pleasure of biting into the cool crunch of the lettuce on my own sandwiches as a kid, the distinctive but not wholly unpleasant taste of not quite cold, but nonetheless thirst-quenching milk. Frequently boring, but always eaten with gusto: the school lunch.

After lunch today, the daughter and I were lolling on the couch in the family room, talking and wondering if we should watch TV. It was hot, and I'm a cheapskate about the air conditioning eco-conscious, so keep the thermostat set high. I looked at her as she fiddled with her PSP--she and the son both know that today was it and computer time will now be only a weekend pleasure--and said, with a little surprise, "I'll be alone tomorrow."

She looked at me, startled, and I continued, "And I'll be lonely."

"Really?" she asked, looking slightly sorrowful and more than a little pleased. "You'll miss me?

"Of course, I'll miss you," I told her as she hugged my arm. And I will. We do have fun during our summers, and my time with my children is precious because I know they are mine only for a limited time, and that time is eaten as quickly as a fast-moving brush fire consumes fuel.

It's true, though, that I didn't tell her about the little frisson of excitement that ran up my spine as I thought alone.

Followed by adventure.

Go listen to some music: "Smoke From a Distant Fire" from the album Smoke From a Distant Fire by Sanford & Townsend. This school year brings more assorted terrors than I generally have to endure, but I'm trying to maintain my aplomb. The destruction wrought on my last year is not something I'd like to face again.

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