Back in June, I took a trip to Toys ‘R’ Us to buy some pool toys for my kids, and I found this amazing sunscreen there. It’s a spray-on lotion, the metallic purple can has a picture of Tinkerbell on it, and it smells like berries. I bought three of them. But after six weeks of camp, swimming, beach days, and slip’n’ slides, I’ve run out. So, yesterday I went back to Toy’s ‘R’ Us, hoping to find some more. But where the inflatable pools, Dora sprinklers, swim goggles and water guns had been just six weeks ago, there were now back packs, lunchboxes, crayons, markers and notebooks. BACK TO SCHOOL, read big yellow signs all over the store. There wasn’t a bottle of sunscreen in sight. It was as if summer had simply ceased to exist.
This afternoon, when I got the mail, there was a catalogue from Neiman Marcus. Now, it’s not so unusual for me to get a catalogue from Neiman Marcus, much to my husband’s chagrin. But this catalogue had Christmas stuff in it. A whole section on stockings and ornaments, plus office and golf gifts for him and cubic zirconia and cashmere gifts for her. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. Excuse me, I wanted to yell to no one in particular, but does anyone recognize that it is AUGUST? Why is it that during the hottest month of the year I can buy a Christmas present for everyone on my list, but I can’t get a friggin’ bottle of sunscreen? I mean, seriously, people, WTF???
Of course, my frustration is nothing new. When I was a teenager, I used to feel ripped off by how my last few carefree weeks were being rushed away by the entire world. Didn’t people realize that shoving school supplies in my face in August just bummed me out? Couldn’t I enjoy my lazy, nothing to do days without the stress of having to decide which Trapper Keeper I wanted for the first day of school? And what about the clothes, huh? Just when I was finally tan enough to look good in a cute new summer dress, the only things anybody wanted to sell me were waterproof boots and cable knit sweaters. Talk about a buzz kill.
And now here I am, a parent, and I’m even more ticked off by how the entire world just writes off these last four weeks of summer as if they don’t even count. As if they’re just something to get through before the real part of the year begins. I’m angry because I’m having fun just hanging out with my kids on the beach in the middle of the day. I’m enjoying popsicles at four o’clock, and swimming at five. I love going with them to concerts in the park, where we picnic with huge groups of friends and keep the kids up until ten o’clock, because it just doesn’t matter when they don’t have to be at school the next day. I’m angry because I know that I can’t ever get this time back again, and I feel like it’s being taken from me, against my will, by retailers. I mean, isn’t it bad enough that they have all of my money? Do they really need to take my summer, too?
Last summer I tried to resist. Last summer, I waited until the day before Labor Day to buy my daughter her back to school things. We strutted into the Disney store on September first, all ready to find the perfect Sleeping Beauty lunch box, and the perfect, corresponding Sleeping Beauty back pack. Harper knew they had them, because we’d passed by the Disney store a million times that summer. Despite her pleas, however, I refused to set foot in it until the last possible minute. We’ll buy you a backpack and a lunchbox when it’s time to go back to school, I told her. But right now, it is not time to go back to school. Right now, it is time to go swimming.
But when we got there that September morning, the lunchboxes were gone, and the only backpacks left were Lilo and Stitch, sitting alone on the clearance shelf because nobody likes Lilo and Stitch. Panicking, I asked a saleswoman who was restocking the shelves if they had any more in the back. Sorry, she said, as she pulled a Sleeping Beauty costume out of a box. But it’s September first. Back to school is over. We’re getting ready for Halloween.