Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Song of Summer Ending

Tonight at bedtime, Smartmom read a few chapters of E.B. White's "Charlotte's Web" to OSFO and Teen Spirit (he for the umpteenth time), and was struck once again by this poetic and poignant passage at the beginning of Chapter 15. "The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer's ending, a sad monotonous song. 'Summer is over and gone,' they sang. 'Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.'"

Unfortunately, we can't hear the song of the crickets in Park Slope. It's possible that there are some crickets in Prospect Park or The Brooklyn Botanic Garden. But we can't hear them above the hum of the neighbor's air conditioners and the noisy traffic racing up Third Street.

Fact is, we really don't need crickets to tell us that summer has come to an end. There are already too many reminders that its leisurely days have been replaced by our action-packed, high-speed lives.

Ever since Smartmom and family got back from their idyllic California farm vacation in late August, summer has been, as E.B. White wrote, "over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying."

First there was the Republican National Convention, which rocked the city with an outpouring of anti-Bush, anti-war protests. Then came the aniversary of September 11th, which has now become the official end of summer for most New Yorkers in the way that it signifies the loss of innocence that came with the terrorists, the rubble, and the mournful white ash.

Then there was the start of school. Groan. The children never look forward to getting back into the swing of things. But it's the parents who really dread the return to tension-filled mornings, homework, and the other stresses of school life.

Still, autumn is probably the most beautiful season in Park Slope. Slopesters are blessed to have Frederick Law Olmstead's magnificent park when summer is changing into fall. And on the Slope's tree-lined streets, the multi-colored leaves mesh pontilistically with the brownstone, red brick, limestone and stained glass of this 19th century neighborhood.

In other ways too, the Slope welcomes the change of seasons. The stores on Seventh Avenue are festooned with Halloween costumes, ghoulish make-up and party decorations. And at the facing Korean markets on Garfield Place, there are dueling pumpkins, gourds, and autumnal flower arrangements.

But fall also brings with it the realization that the children of Park Slope are growing up. Last year's baby's are this year's toddlers. Yesterday's pre-schoolers are lining up at PS 321. Elementary begets middle school And perhaps most shocking of all, an inordinate number of the kids of Park Slope have become bona-fide TEENAGERS.

Has anyone else noticed the huge crowds of just-hatched teens around The Mojo and PS 321. As the mother of a 13-year-old, perhaps Smartmom is particularly attuned to this age group. Consequently, she spends a prolific amount of time spying on them fascinated as she is by their outfits (grunge meets punk meets goth meets psychedelic); their habits (some are smoking and it ain't just tobacco); and their big-time ATTITUDE.

And many of these Slope teens are, well, huge. Over the summer, the girls became women and the boys became men. And it's just so freaky. They look like stretched-out versions of themselves as children. But, truly, they are not children anymore. How quickly the years sped by. Just yesterday they were being pushed around in McClaren strollers on Seventh Avenue sipping from sippy cups and eating string cheese. How did this happen?

As Joni Mitchell wrote, "And the seasons, they go round and round..."

Fortunately OSFO and Teen Spirit still enjoy lying in the big bed listening to Smartmom read "Charlotte's Web," a book that depicts a magical childhood on a farm, a world away from 21st century Park Slope. They love to hear the story of Fern, a girl who understands the language of a pig, a spider and the other animals in the barn.

Smartmom knows that OSFO and Teen Spirit won't always want to read "Charlotte's Web" and that one day they too might be hanging out in front of The Mojo (Teen Spirit is already growing out of the nest in some ways). But Smartmom is so grateful for these bedtime readings, these loving cuddles before sleep. She knows that Teen Spirit and OSFO will change and grow. That's the way it goes. Just not yet, please. Not yet.


At 5:57 PM, Blogger mamainwaiting said...

You know I've never actually read Charlotte's Web and you piece made me want to - loved you piece. Yes, Park Slope is beautiful and full of life in the fall. The leaves, the Halloween decorations, the extradinary afternoon light, illuminating the streets. It is a wonderful time of year. GA

At 9:19 PM, Blogger brooklynfox said...

Thanks for making me appreciate the fall in our neighborhood. Sometimes I forget to look beyond my two feet. I loved Charlotte's Web as a kid and I'm glad you are enjoying still. I love to just look at the art on the cover. Doesn't the pig have long eyelashes? It's just lovely. SM, your eyes are so open! RFJ


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