Sitting out here on the deck, with the sunny and 75 degrees and no humidity weather as perfect as it gets here in Pittsburgh, this feels like a moment in time. Summer is definitely winding down. Only two days remain before school starts, and it’s a milestone one: this is the year we turn a corner and become the parents of high schoolers.
“I remember thinking, back when we were in the NICU, that their high school graduation year of 2020 seemed so far away,” The Husband commented on Wednesday, as the four of us sat in the school’s auditorium for high school orientation. This is where it all starts, the principal said, the plans and decisions and classes that shape the next four years.
Of course, he was careful to say that there’s still time to decide on a post-graduation pathway; nothing needs to be determined this week. But the message was clear: time’s a-tickin’. Time keeps on tickin’, tickin’ tickin’ into the future ….
It’s all a bit unsettling. Even without a new building to navigate and new school personnel to get used to, the beginning of school historically tends to be a difficult, stressful, anxiety-levels-through-the-stratosphere transition for our family. Much of this past week has been spent trying to mitigate as much of that as possible. To put it mildly, it’s been exhausting on every level.
One of my go-to coping strategies has been to seek out a mindless read, and Jay McInerney’s latest, Bright, Precious Days is fitting that bill perfectly. It’s another incarnation of the insufferable lives of Corrine and Russell Calloway, the protagonists in two of McInerney’s Brightness Falls and The Good Life. Just like his earlier works, Bright, Precious Days is yet another one of McInerney’s name-dropping romps through the New York City playgrounds of the glitterati.
If you’ve read any of McInerney’s earlier novels, you know what you’ll be getting with any of his subsequent books. Bright, Precious Days does not veer from the formula that has made him successful. It’s a navel-gazing, salad-eating, charity-gala-going, Chanel-wearing, hedge-fund managing narrative set in New York (of course) between 2006-2008. Hillary is running for president against a guy named Barack whose only major political experience is a short stint as a Senator; the subprime mortgage crisis and the recession hasn’t yet happened, and people still carry flip phones.
It all seems like an ancient time, as much of a relic from the past as the cocaine-laced ’80s that define McInerney’s characters own bright, precious days. Those they lost in the era of drugs and AIDS, as well as the horror of 9/11, are still very much part of their present.
Like I said, sometimes you just need a book where you don’t have to think much and if I was in a different state of mind, this might not be holding my interest. But it’s doing its job right now by being an effective diversion, so that’s something. And even though The Husband and I never were nor will ever be in the same social and economic class as the Calloways, there’s a part of me that can relate to them. At 47, we don’t feel old enough to have kids in high school, despite my insistence to The Husband at the school orientation that we are, in fact older than the typical parents. At nearly 50 (the age of the Calloways), it seems we should have our act together by now, have done more, know what we’re doing with our lives. Instead, the decisions we’ve put into place and the assumptions we’ve made about our future feel shaky, at best.
It’s twilight. The clouds are aflame, there’s a slight autumnal chill in the air. All any of us really have in this moment in time are these bright, precious days.
This is post #84 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.