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  • Writer's pictureTracey Lee

The End of Summer (holidays)


It’s hard to explain the sense of dread and grief that accompanies the end of one’s summer holidays. The end of January signifies the arrival of the school year and the general return to normalcy in the psyche of most Australians. Summer isn’t at an end; the long hot weeks through February and March give us plenty to be happy about but the freedom of January is gone.

As my return to work date approaches I, quite frankly, become slightly deranged. It’s a harsh word but it conjures a sense of the world I enter as the weeks of lazy calm begin to slip away. I can’t help but think of what is ahead and what challenges I might have to face, the preparation that needs to be done, the professional reading to be completed and the frustrations that might steal away my Zen-like demeanour. So instead of facing down reality I commence a program of profound distraction that would rival any nesting mammal that is preparing for offspring.

The first distraction comes in the form of food preparation. I make raspberry jam. In my childhood I watched my mother spend January using up the last of the summer fruit to create jam and sauces that lasted the year. It was a sure sign that the overabundance of tomatoes, berries and stone fruit was coming to an end and that the school term would begin. So in a small way I pay homage to her extraordinary skill and commence the labour-intensive process of sterilising jars and getting the fruit and sugar on the boil. The smell and resultant sticky, deep magenta bubbling pulp links me directly with home and the past. It also is a process that broaches no sloppy practice. Take your eyes off it and stop stirring in the early stages to bemoan what the next few weeks will bring and you’ve burnt the bottom of the pan and the whole six litres are ruined.

I also decided that I’d have a go at making almond milk. While the result was excellent I’m still not sure I like the taste of it, the texture or the smell. And despite what seemed like hours of straining and draining through muslin I was able to capture a litre of silky white liquid that actually looked like milk. It was a great distraction.

So much so that I send my husband foraging for almonds and other things missing from the pantry. When I say foraging I mean sending him to Costco. He returned with enough almonds for me to put the dairy industry out of business and a bag of self-raising flour that is so big it will allow me to control the black market when the scone famine hits!

Next was cleaning and cupboards. Then windows and gardening. Landscaping and building. Hard to believe that I was really engaged in the last two but I was acting in a consultative position. That means saying no a lot or apparently sneering to convey my displeasure at suggestions. There was a lot of time spent on the beach too and numerous cups of coffee and a few lunch dates.

But reality cannot be denied for long, not even if one bakes a thousand scones or bottles jam by the litre. Eventually I had to stop and accept that the holidays had ended. I had to go and buy my pen supply, my new mug, a diary and a few thousand post-it notes, pack my bag, make a sandwich for lunch, weep a bit and make myself go to work. Luckily to a job I love.

But still the lingering sadness of leaving behind days of endless possibility creates a little grief. If you listen carefully you will hear the collective sigh as Australians across the country accept the inevitable. Holidays are done and dusted.

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