It's gotten to the point where we are, as a society and as individuals, not only tired of pumpkin spice latté, but tired of being tired of it.
Oh, there was a brief moment when we could unite in amused contempt and say things like, "What's next, Pumpkin Spice Motor Oil? Am I right?" But that seems like a long time ago. Now we accept the stuff popping up on the shelves in late August, as the cattle prods of commerce herd us into the corral of autumn. After which we are sent to the slaughterhouse of winter. But then we are the hot dogs and brats of spring!
I dragged out that analogy too far, didn't I?
Anyway, summer's not over, some insist. Labor Day, Schmabor Day! (By the way, Schmabor Day falls on a Thursday this year.) Just because the calendar clicks over doesn't mean the end of summer. Look at the world, bedecked with verdant glory, bright with flowers; the sun still winks on the waves of the lakes, and there's still warmth in the wind. Meteorological summer, as it's technically called, won't end for weeks.
But no one believes that. When I was growing up, summer was over when Jerry Lewis sat on a chair and cried, signaling the end of the telethon and, hence, Labor Day. The smells of summer would be erased in a day by fresh pencils and chalk. School starts, summer's done. Fall gathers. Winter waits.
Oh by the way, the Farmers' Almanac is predicting the worst winter, thanks to their secret "mathematical and astronomical formula developed in 1818," according to their site. Because 201 years ago they had this stuff down: "If the doctor's leeches stiffen in June, more firewood come December must be hewn. If the dodo bird limps when August is nigh, and the horsetails doth thicken when south the geese fly, put up your jams when the night has no moon, for cold and snow bounteous shall come, maybe soon."
The weather app on my phone is useless more than a day out, and these guys are using a 200-year-old formula that involves sunspots? How good were telescopes in 1818? Maybe that was a fleck of dirt on the lens?
We're never ready for summer to end, but we rise to the challenge. The rituals and duties reassert themselves with no regard for our mood. The school lunchboxes have to be filled and the kids put on buses.
Granted, some of us feel relief when school starts anew: The house is quiet, demands are lessened and a certain sense of adult order seeps back into our day.
But if you're a new empty nester, or even someone who long ago saw the fledglings fly, it's different. The decline of the sun, the slight cool in the air — it's like getting an automatic calendar reminder for a weekly meeting for a job you no longer have. And you think, "Oh, right, fall isn't a time of renewal, as we pretended, but a literal portent of my own inevitable decline!"
If your kids were home from college during the summer, they seem to take the season with them when they go back. But that's as it should be. The fall is yours now. As some almanac probably says: "When the spice of the pumpkin appeareth too soon, recall that the sun never stays at the high point of noon."
Whatever that means. It's still summer. If the State Fair's still on and the Ferris wheel plows the clouds, it's summer — the only season where the last day is as fine as the first.