Yesterday my eldest daughter alerted me to the fact that in a few weeks she’d be returning to college for her junior year. I sufficiently struggle in segregating the past from the present, and in my mind’s eye I sometimes see her as seven or eight, running after her sister with scraped knees, all motion and giggling and ponytail. But how can she be returning to school already? She just yesterday came home. Or so it seems. How could May, June and most of July have flown off the calendar so quickly? She’s been home more than ten weeks now, and less than four more remain till she again takes it on the lam, upstate, to the frozen tundra where she pursues her higher education.

The encroaching school year, as significant a harbinger of fall and the impending darkness of winter as is the World Series and the turning of the leaves. And I closed my eyes and tried very hard to remember the time of life when summers did not hurry towards September, but rather lingered, like nectar, savored and sweet and almost endlessly enduring.

We were well acquainted with our own forerunners of the summer’s end. The appearance of coil room heaters, the presence of sweatshirts and sweaters, the disappearance of bathing suits, the soft yellowing of the leaves. The days shortened, the light leaving the sky earlier and earlier as July turned to August and August pushed off from the blocks to sprint towards September.

In the bungalows we hardly ever saw a city paper, instead relying on the Times Herald Record out of neighboring Middletown. Today Middletown is a bedroom community of New York City, and colleagues reside there year round, commuting daily to lower Manhattan, the Record tucked under their arms. Even today, a glance at the Record front page brings me back to the Catskills, and the summer, and the bungalows. Sometime in July—far too early I believed to be civilized—full-page advertisements began to appear heralding tremendous “Back to School Sales.” Back to school? We’d only just left the dusty classrooms for the great outdoors!

Then, later, in August, as camp ended and a week remained till we loaded the family sedan for home, mom began her back to school clothing inventory. A full afternoon of play was sacrificed to search Monticello, Liberty and South Fallsburg for new sneakers—almost always Keds—and an ugly pair of black lace-up shoes to carry us through the ensuing ten months.

The many harbingers over the summer’s end—almost too numerable for recounting—have been included in work done before, by others and myself.

I know that as I drive the winding roads of Route 17, past Monticello, through Binghamton, and through to her college in Cortland, the memories will wash over me like a cleansing sea, taking with it, in its wake, years of longing for those days of magic and wonder. For part of the ride I again will be a child anticipating the thrills of pinball, ring-a-leevio, bonfires, softball, swimming, fireflies and salamanders. And I know that I am not alone.

After assisting my daughter’s return to her off campus home, and spending a few hours with her (how many chances for this remain, now that she is officially “on her own”), I will turn the car back down Route 17. Passing into Sullivan County I will look for exit 105B, which will lead me to Route 42. Ahead, at the flashing light, by the McDonald’s and the Exxon station and the bank, just before the gigantic new Wal-Mart, I’ll make a left turn. Then Anawana Lake Road will bend and wind and turn till it arrives at one of the last of the dowager resorts—Kutshers. There, for a few brief days, at the Ninth Annual Catskill Institute Conference, I will have a chance to share longings and memories with friends and colleagues who still keep the faith.

What a fitting swan song for summer, and such a choice venue. Re-examining the history of a region that was so significant in our lives, at a time when they wait to break ground into a new and different future—a billion-dollar casino hotel hard aside Anawana Lake.

A final harbinger, then—the huge bulldozers and earthmovers that await their chance to make over the landscape and herald a new and exciting era. The past is prelude, and the future is bright. May our children, and their children, enjoy as golden and cherished memories as we ourselves have been so blessed to recall.

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