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Dr. Summer & Mrs. Hyde

I always remember the end of summer as a time when my mom would start shopping for those toughskins jeans with the patches in the knees. The non fading toughskins served two purposes. The knees were impossible to wear out since the patches were made from some kind of material just shy of sheet metal. The second purpose of the toughskins jeans was to assure that I remained in the uncool category for another school year.  I don’t remember when, but there was some point when I’m sure I said I couldn’t wear the uncool, unfading, robot-proof toughskins any longer. I’m sure that’s when stress started for me with regards to the start of school.

Fast forward a few more years and I faced the stress of starting school and not being able to get my hair to stay parted in the middle. I absolutely couldn’t use hairspray and only every 4th day I could get the feathered hair to look just right. Fast forward a few more years and I was out of high school and the pressures of the first day of college were less. Fast forward further ahead and I was done with school with a happy little Alice Cooper tune running through my head – the same tune that had covered every last day of school as far back as I can remember. But, this time it was really out forever. Unless, of course I decided to go into a field that would require me to take continuing education classes. I would choose to avoid any such fields.

Now, the beginning of school is for me to get the correct number of pencils, erasers and everything else from the list that is emailed to me. I don’t want to go all Andy Rooney on you here, but I never got a list when I went to school. I think it was understood that pencils and paper were needed. Hand sanitizer used to be called soap back before germaphobes ruled. Tissue paper was a rolled up handkerchief in your sleeve (I went a bit too Andy on that one – we actually had tissue paper when I went to school). I don’t mind the list too much. I understand budgets are all tight and some of these things used to be provided by the schools and now cannot. In fact, I enjoy the fun of getting ready and especially enjoy that it’s not me going back to school. Don’t get me wrong, I used to like school when I went. But I decided long ago to never forget how fun it would be NOT to go to school. Not having to ride the bus, sitting next to Buzz Dickson as he pretended to punch me in the arm, alternating with really punching me in the arm – all the way to school.

The problem in our house is that my wife Cynthia is a teacher. She has to go back to school every year. She does get paid to go, so that’s something. Cynthia was an art student and now is an art teacher. She spent most of her childhood drawing and making art when she was not being interrupted by the pesky things such as reading and writing and math. She was an introvert. Well, guess what? She grew up and went to the college and became a teacher. Now, nine months out of the year she has to be an extrovert. When summer begins there is a mad rush to relax. To be with the kids and family. Relaxing can become all-consuming. Relaxing can be hard work. But for almost 3 months my wife relaxes the hell out of summer. It must all be packed in. Trips must be taken. Water parks must be visited. Things must be baked. Kids must be played with. Friends must be visited. All of this must happen in a non stressful relaxing right now immediately kind of way, because summer will end soon.

In many ways everyone goes through this in the northern climates. Things will creep to a stop once winter hits, so we try to pack our long days with non stop outdoor activity. But for us when school is about to start, this is the signal that Dr. Summer is about to leave for the lab and Mrs. Hyde is going to appear. See, smart and charming reader, I don’t know the plight of an introvert and at the same time, I’m not very knowledgable of how an extrovert goes about their business. I am what might be called an “Vert”. I’m part introvert and part extrovert. I’m malleable. I can be described as pragmatic. Some may refer to this as wishy-washy. I’m like a flexible polymer or bendy rubber. Wait, I’m Gumby, Damnit. I am the hardest working lazy man around. I can tell stories to people long enough for them to wish their ears would wither and fall off their heads. I can be away from people and talk to nobody for a week at a time, like Jeremiah Johnson chewing on the backs of hides to soften the leather.  My wife is an introvert.

Every year at about this time as Dr. Summer starts to go away, Mrs. Hyde starts to appear. There are long eulogies bemoaning the end of Dr. Summer and questions about when and will Mrs. Hyde show up again this year. Mrs. Hyde is the person that can stand in front of a class and talk all day. Mrs. Hyde goes to meetings and expresses her opinions. Things get very stressful as lesson plans are mulled over and arrangements need to be made about schedules. Then, once schools starts Dr. Summer is gone and will pay visits on the weekends and has visitations arranged with the children and Mrs. Hyde has made the necessary personality adjustments to deal with students, parents, school officials, etc. and the ensuing nine months.

I know that there are many introverts out there going through this on a daily basis. No introvert really wants to make that power point presentation to the board of directors or head that training seminar. All I can say to those introverts is to stay the course. Don’t choose a ocupation where you are allowed to have summer off and time to go back to your regular ways.

Just the other night before going to bed the kids wanted to say goodnight to mommy. She was in the basement office working on some lesson plans. I decided to surprise Cynthia with hugs from the kids. They were all in their jammies and fresh from baths and none of them had turned into icky middle schoolers yet. As we entered the office I quickly noticed that Cynthia was on the floor and writhing out of what looked like a very thin skin – like a snake shedding a skin. I shut the door quickly as to not alarm the children.

Lila asked, “What’s up?”

I said that mommy was just changing and needed privacy. I waited a few moments and then opened the door slowly. Cynthia was in her bathrobe sitting in front of the computer. I quickly looked to the floor and she followed my eyes. The shed skin was still lying crumpled on the floor only half way pushed under the couch. She quickly reached down and in one swift move, grabbed the skin, balled it up and pushed it down in the garbage can. Poor Dr. Summer. But, she’ll be back in a short nine months. Once this was complete, I let the kids pass by me to give their mother, Mrs. Hyde, a goodnight hug. They had to hug her a bit harder because the Dr. Summer thin skin was crumpled in the garbage like the thin protective shrink wrapping from a new gadget. The Mrs. Hyde transformation was complete with new school year thick skin and all. Will the real toughskins please stand up.

Sadly Yours,

Jason Spafford

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