The first trigger will be the hint of a season change. It will come around the time the summer flowers begin to crisp on the edges. Tomato plants will hang heavy with ripe fruits. Maybe you’ll notice a few overeager leaves shedding their green dresses for warmer colors. This will feel welcome. Fall is, after all, the best season in our state.
It’s the big sign that will get your attention next, catching you off guard in a moment of vulnerability as you browse the new fall cardigans in Target. “Back to School” it reads. You will instantly cry. You will be glad for this mask providing some anonymity from your public emotional breakdown. Did nobody tell them? Even if your children will be some of the lucky ones to walk through doors of school buildings at least a couple times a week, there will still be enough uncertainty in the air to cause this peppy image of backpack clad children to feel like a lie. Certainly the “school” they are going back to isn’t the one Target advertises. This will feel like an attack. You won’t be ready to grieve this quite yet so you will hurry by this section.
But the denial won’t last long. It’s the social media memory notification that will finally do you in.
Picture memories one after the other, five years ago, four years ago, three years ago, and so on, will pop up reminding you of what happens every year at this time, the end of summer tradition that sparkles with the freedom and joy of summer one last time before the schedules and routine of a new school year begins. The faces of your family participating in that great tradition alongside thousands of their Minnesota pride wearing neighbors. The photos that trigger sensory experiences of epic proportions connected to this one grand event.
It’s the pictures of your annual visit to the Minnesota State Fair.
Your heart will swell at the first look, like a rush of anticipation. You will swear you can almost taste the corn dogs. But it won’t take long before your spirit will collapse.
There will be no new memory created at the State Fair this year.
There will be no fried food on a stick.
There will be no sliding down a giant slide.
There will be no bucket of cookies to carry around and unlimited milk to dip them in.
There will be no part of the tradition you remember—the menu strategizing, the early morning trek to the grounds, the main gate selfie, the rides, the people watching and the food and the drinks and the food and the food.
But then, just as you posture to chuck your phone into the nearest lake (and there will be plenty to choose from; this is Minnesota after all,) something will stop you.
A thought will cross your mind, a premonition, a gentle whisper from the past, or maybe the future, it won’t be clear.
You can do this, that voice will say.
No, you can’t show up to the fair grounds with your fanny pack and your point by point itinerary for the day.
But you will recognize that the State Fair was never really about the rides or the games or the music or the food (ok, it still is very much about the food.) The State Fair was really all about the sprit of celebration. And sure, it usually means a celebration with far more people than you should be around at this moment, but more importantly it was a celebration with your family.
And that kind of celebration does not have to be canceled.
Kendra Adachi, blogger and podcaster with The Lazy Genius Collective, calls this celebration a “closing ceremony.” She says that it is important to “mark the ending of something with intention” because it helps with the transition of one season to the next. Most importantly it isn’t “what you do that matters but that you do something.”
And so with this in mind, you will set out to plan the best Summer Closing Ceremony your family has seen yet, or at least the best for 2020 standards.
You will choose a day and begin to strategize. You will decide what your favorite memories are of the state fair and use those problem solving skills they taught you in elementary school to recreate as much as you can.
Maybe you will plan some backyard games with the kids, a carnival on your driveway.
Maybe you will stock up on all of the local beers and make your own brewery tour around the back yard.
Maybe you will drive around hunting for your favorite food trucks to get your corn dog or funnel cake fix.
Maybe you will want to celebrate Minnesota, take a drive along the river, go for a hike in the state parks, ride your bike across the Stone Arch Bridge, visit a farm, splash in one of the many lakes (all while wearing your mask and keeping distant, of course.)
Maybe you will set up an epic water balloon fight with your kids and remember what it feels like to scream with joy.
No matter what it is you choose to do, you will choose it with the same intention you set out to achieve every year at this time, State Fair or not—for the spirit of joy and celebration at another summer well lived.
And then you will realize you have been here before.
You will remember the time you were first called to action this year, in mid March when suddenly the school doors closed and you were granted a co-teaching position with your child’s teacher overnight.
You will remember how you learned to shift your meal plan when grocery store shelves came up empty.
You will remember how you made birthdays special even from a distance.
You will remember how you reconnected with friends, how you learned to measure six feet, how you practiced never leaving home without your mask.
You will remember that each and every time you were handed a bunch of lemons in the form of canceled plans and extra responsibility, you took a deep breath, and you made freshly shaken lemonade out of it. Because you are a mom, and you know how to adapt again and again for the sake of your children.
You will do anything to make them smile. Because their joy is always contagious. And you will need every bit of joy the world can offer.
Then at the end of that busy Summer Closing Ceremony day, as you tuck your children into bed sticky, smelling of sunscreen, but with a sleepy smile still on their faces, almost as if you spent the day at the fair, you will realize something else.
You can do this again.
You can take this same spirit of positivity and intention and joy that guided your remake of a canceled State Fair tradition and let it lead you into the upcoming school year. No matter how different the first day of school will look, no matter the challenges that will arise in balancing full time EVERYTHING, no matter the cancelations or the let downs or the changes in plans, you will handle it all. You have done it before. You will do it again. And you will do it with pride.
Because when the memories pop up in the future, this year will stand out above all the others. This will be the year that a mom was handed a canceled state fair and she turned it into an epic celebration. It will be a memory that will make your heart swell with a greater joy than any giant ferris wheel could ever bring.