As soon as Labor Day is over, our schedules kick into high gear -- and this year more so than usual. Noel leaves for the Toronto International Film Festival tomorrow morning. My parents arrive on Thursday. And I leave for our first-year student retreat on Friday, returning on Sunday.
At least this year I'm not missing another meeting at the same time. The American Academy of Religion held a late-summer board meeting this year instead of an early-fall executive committee meeting, which has always conflicted with this exceptionally busy weekend. I love going on this retreat, which features good food, good company, and good work, but it's hard to relax and enjoy myself when Noel is away and the kids are in the care of grandparents specially imported for the purpose.
I'll be leaving shortly after Noel gets back, on the first of several trips this semester. Noel observed while prepping for Toronto that it feels different to leave now, compared to past years. The kids are so interesting to be around, are changing and growing so fast, that it's no longer a longed-for escape to get away on your own. You feel like you are leaving friends and interesting people behind, rather than people who depend on your care and exhaust you with their need. I'm not eager to be gone from them, even for a week, even though I can't wait to travel to some of these meetings and locations.
At least while Noel is gone I'll get some extra time in their presence. I'll be the one who picks them up and hears about their day. Noel is trading those moments for wonderful movies and the company of fellow critics, but I think it's not obvious that he's getting the best of the deal -- not with these kids, not at this time of their lives.