Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back to School

As I lay prone this morning in the dental hygienist’s exceedingly padded chair, my mouth agape, legs crossed (as though to regain some dignity), I overheard on the radio (one of those dreadful AM stations where the commentators are always laughing) something about going back to school, likely a sale’s pitch directed to the parents of young children. It reminded me that for the longest time after I graduated from university, the routine of returning to school in September continued to linger. The ceremony which had been repeated for so many years in my life was seemingly impossible to abandon. Then - suddenly - it was gone. The ship had at last sailed on that particular connection. As I developed my working career, the end of August and the beginning of September took on new meaning and associations.

Initially the juncture was replaced by annual trips to Cape Cod. We almost invariably drove to the Cape (though once we flew to Boston then took the equivalent of Air Casablanca to Provincetown). The drive through the New England states was exhilarating, the magnificent mountainous ranges of Vermont and New Hampshire, the splendid highways, the hustle and bustle of Boston, and at last the winding roads of Cape Cod, with water on all sides, sand dunes and sea grasses. By design the vacation traditionally straddled the Labour Day Weekend, an almost riotous time on the Cape as the local bar and restaurant staff joined the throngs of tourists in their last collective social swing of the season. Things calmed down swiftly after Labour Day, and days were spent almost alone on the beach in the dry warm air of early Autumn, sun tanning and swimming, walking to and from the lighthouse.

It was no small part of the decision to enjoy a holiday in September that business frequently took a nose dive at that time of year, purportedly because everyone was so busy and preoccupied with doing whatever people do at the end of the summer cottage season and in preparation for the return to school. Plus, we were assured that - with the exception of the Labour Day Weekend - there would be fewer travelers to compete with, and often lodging prices dropped after Labour Day. I also found the weather in early September was unusually favourable. In addition, much of my conveyancing business is seasonal, so the summer months tend to tax my strength more than other times of year. By September, I am normally ready for a much needed break.

Eventually, however, even the routine of going to Cape Cod stopped. In fact the routine of taking a vacation anywhere in early September stopped. We began to turn things on their head, preferring, for example, to fly to Florida at odd times of the year, say August or October (in addition to returning in the Winter, as every respectable Canadian must do). Often these trips were for nothing more than a long weekend, but they satisfied a need to refresh and get away. To this day I maintain that Florida in the summer is the best kept secret. The pace is remarkably slower, there is no congestion, service is better, and again the accommodation prices drop. With the constant Ocean breeze, the heat is never a problem.

Vacations for me have always included the Ocean. I am quite specific about that; a gulf does not make it, much less a lake, river or stream. I need to hear the crashing of the waves and the pounding of the surf, and I adore looking at a limitless expanse of water, at any time of day or night. This year we’re taking a jaunt to Newfoundland for the first time. I am very enthusiastic about this trip, as I have heard nothing but praise for the place and its people. Some of my colleagues who have been there already tell me that they are considering buying land there. From what I can gather, the coastal areas of Nova Scotia are being bought up at a rapid rate by people from the United States and as far abroad as Germany. I fully suspect that the surge of interest has catapulted the prices accordingly. At least in Newfoundland there remains the prospect of enjoying excellent value. In any event, we are counting on a good time in St. John’s, even though we’ll have but a short time to see the surrounding area only. Just dipping a toe in the Ocean, so to speak.

Several years ago we flew to Prince Edward Island for what was to be an autumnal class reunion of my law school pals, but the whole thing fell apart due to lack of interest. We decided to keep the engagement anyway, and ended by feeling that we had the entire Island to ourselves, the place was so deserted of tourists by that time. There is obviously no lack of Ocean in Prince Edward Island, much to my delight.

So once again I have the privilege of seeing another Labour Day Weekend looming on the horizon, wondering what our young minds must be thinking about going back to school (and not envying them in the least). September 1st marks such an important transition in the year, effectively ending the summer, getting everybody back to work, and preparing us for the inevitable misery of Winter. I must say that, had I not heard that reference to school on the radio this morning, the event would probably have escaped me, so complete is my division from that historical undertaking.

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