Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The End of Summer

We here at the Stiletto Gang try not to get thrown by a month that has five Tuesdays or five Wednesdays, and always make provisions.  Hence, it’s two Maggie Barbieri posts in as many weeks!  Your lucky day or unfathomable disappointment that you’re not seeing Bethany Maines?  Don’t worry—she’ll be back next week.

I’m purposely going to keep it light this week. Today, as I write this, school begins, but for some reason, not everyone has left the building, so to speak.  Why is high school starting at ten o’clock on the first day?  That’s a question I haven’t been able to get an answer to and one that will perplex me all day, but I’m just going to go with it.  Child #2 left at his appointed seven twenty-five this morning, his lunch sitting atop the kitchen counter.  Husband took off a little past that, and child #1 remains here, the ten o’clock witching hour fast approaching.  Soon, it will just be me, the dog, and the cat, and a basement full of water if this morning’s rainfall is any indication of what’s ahead.

So, summer is over, and with it goes all of Maggie’s bad habits.  I see the beginning of school as being more of a chance to break old routines and enjoy some new ones than I do the beginning of a new calendar year.  Despite having begun a walking regimen this summer that amounted to anywhere between eighteen and twenty-five miles per week, I have not lost a pound.  Truth be told, I probably gained a few.  So today begins the healthy eating program, a declaration that makes my family groan in dismay.  Out are the homemade trays of macaroni and cheese, the ones that harden your arteries with just one glance in their direction, and in is the whole wheat pasta, organic beans, and lots of salad.  The case of wine I just bought?  Well, we’re saving that for a dinner party or a special occasion.  Cracking open a bottle every night and remarking on the rich texture of the Chilean Chardonnay or the fruity undertones of the Argentinian Malbec is a thing of the past.  Sparkling water or lemon-lime seltzer is now de rigeur.  And the Magnum ice cream bars—the ones that I had coupons for and which were practically free?  Bye-bye.  The family in this household has seen their last richly decorated box, their last gold-covered ice cream bar.

Summer should be a time of healthy eating and outdoor activity but I find that it’s really just a constant round of barbecues, parties, and celebrations.  Everything centers around food, or frozen cocktails, or delicious desserts.  Sure, we’ve got our wonderful corn on the cob and Jersey tomatoes, but when you serve them with country-style barbecue ribs or a thick, juicy flank steak, the calorie quotient gets amped up considerably.  And even though we’re moving into braised meat season—pot roast, beef stew, sauerbraten—it doesn’t compare to fried chicken and potato salad or any of the other wonderful summer meals that my friends—all fantastic cooks—put together.  We socialize a lot and eat even more. 

The beginning of school, consequently, signals a return to less excess and more rigor, and truth be told, it feels good.  Does anyone out there have similar feelings about the end of summer and the beginning of school?  Are you glad to get back to the routine that September brings?

Maggie Barbieri


  1. I use the start of the new school year--and, remember, we have no one in our house going to school, unless the cat decides, finally, that yes, he will apply to law school so he can take that damn veterinarian to the cleaners for a history of abuses--as a trigger for two things:

    1--I clean and reset my office. Books get shelved, notes and spare bits for every writing gig since just after the new year turned get collected together and packed up with a nice label. The desk clutter is banished (that only lasts a couple of days). I buy any new "school supplies" I need like printer ink, pencils, notebooks, etc. Although, you have to carefully navigate your child-free shopping because those moms and dads out with little Johnny and Susie (if ONLY kids still had nice names like that!!) for their binders and back packs are like wild animals.

    2--I clean and restock our medicine cabinets. I take all the expired OTC meds and prescriptions to be properly disposed of at my pharmacy (shouldn't toss or flush those, you know) and buy a new full stock of cough meds, lozenges, decongestants, etc. so that when the colder, tougher weather is on us and it's 9:50p and we suddenly realize we do have a cold or the flu, no one has to go OUT to get Robitussin.

    Those are the big fall tasks, but there are others like cleaning up the garden and rotating the fall/winter clothes into the front of our closets, etc. I love autumn and maybe it has something to do with habits like these making me feel that I'm on top of life, that I am ready, once again.

  2. Gosh, Vick, I may need to fly you out here to help us get ready for school! I've got meds from about six years ago. Now I'm going to take them to the pharma to dispose of. I give you credit for doing your office shopping around the time that school starts. I don't even want to enter Office Max with my own little Johnny and Susie let alone see everyone else's. Maggie

  3. I know, Mags. It really isn't too bright to go when the school supply lists are getting filled, but I always think that I can time my shopping for when the parents and kids aren't in the stores shopping. Funny story . . . there ISN'T any such time!

    The deals are so good, though. Oh, and, we do participate in those donation drives for school supplies both in our home community and for my husband's office community so I guess I am somewhat drawn to be there at the same time as the parents of the Johnnys and Susies, we just don't know the names of the kids for whom we're shopping!

    Confess: doesn't every writer just get a little thrill holding a new pack of pens/pencils and a nice fresh comp book!?!?

  4. Our kids began school two weeks ago. One of my great-granddaughters started high school and she's thrilled to be on the volley ball team, but her schedule was changed 9 times! The poor kid broke down and bawled the last time--fortunately the woman in the office was a friend of her mom's.

    Another great-granddaughter is in 3rd grade. My grandson went to her back to school night and learned she read too fast. H'mmm. Not sure what that means exactly. We're taking her with us to our annual family reunion. She's staying in our room--should be interesting.


  5. It's the grandkids going back to school that kicked of my fall but, yes, I see this as the start of a new year for myself as well.

    Of course, all those healthy eating resolutions will work fine for a couple months. Then come THE HOLIDAYS.

  6. Marilyn, they have already begun field hockey practice (last month) and will begin soccer practice tomorrow, if it ever stops raining!

    LD, thanks for the reminder. I think I can get fifteen off by Thanksgiving, but if not? Oh, well. :-) Maggie

  7. With a hubby and three fur-kids, summer is the same as the rest of the year for me (only hotter!). I'm excited about the cooler weather which makes it far more bearable to write in my upstairs room. I'm trying to stay more faithful to my exercise routine and not skip meals (usually breakfast). We'll see how that works when I'm in deadline crunch...which I'm pretty much in now, come to think of it! Race you to "The End," Ms. Maggie? Not sure how many calories that burns off, but you never know. ;-)

  8. Autumn is such a poignant time. Fall cleaning-symbolically-for the holidays, changing colors. Since I am Jewish, the holidays come abruptly, right after school starts, with a reminder of the ebb and flow of life. Ironically, I live in Northern California on the coast where it is hot right now, and we never really had a summer. I agree with you, Maggie, do the best you can... Marilyn, I had to laugh about your great granddaughter. When I was young, it was still Dick and Jane. I always read ahead, and my teacher reprimanded me when I had no idea where the class was in their out loud reading. This blog gives me a lot of pleasure, as do the books.

  9. Thanks, Lil. Your comments give us a lot of pleasure, too. Enjoy that balmy Northern California weather! And best wishes for happy and healthy holy days. Maggie