When the school year ends, I always feel a bit bereft. I love the academic cycle, the fresh starts each fall and again with each term (small commas, brief breaths in the sentence that is the year). I need summer, but summer and I need time to reconnect on new terms each year.
I feel that way now; classes ended Friday and we’ll wrap faculty meetings this Thursday before finishing with a conference early next week. It’s a slow segue to summer.
A few weeks ago, Raquelle wrote about leisure reading as self-care and shared some of the titles she’s reading. Her experience resonated with me: when I finished my dissertation seven years ago, I couldn’t wait to read again. In grad school, I read often, but I’d rarely had time to pick up a book for fun. (Example: I read the Hunger Games books while in grad school, but my head was so full of history books that by the time the last one came out, I couldn’t remember the others. I also read it so hurriedly that even now, I can’t tell you a thing about it.)
I got much better at reading for fun again after grad school, but in the past couple of years, I’ve slipped again. In the school year, I’m generally less likely to pick up a book on the weekend or before I go to sleep, often too exhausted to try. There are exceptions, like trimester and holiday breaks, or spring break, but my Goodreads profile tends to be less active in general than it was a few years ago.
Still, books are where I find myself and calm myself. They’re perfect for making the transition from teacher-on-the-go to teacher-at-rest.
The best way to start summer is always with book in hand, and these days, nothing feels as much like home as getting reacquainted with old favorites. That’s been a bit of a theme this year, or at least I think it is.
It began last fall when the school year started. As I made the transition back to teacher-on-the-go, I finally binged Netflix’s Anne with an ‘E’. While the series has had its detractors, watching it last fall was like extending the summer, or throwing myself far back in the past, to a time when my whole world was nothing but reading books.
It’s been decades since I read the Anne books. As I wrapped up the series, I optimistically pulled my copy of Anne of Green Gables from the top shelf and carried it to my bedside table. I remember thinking I might have a chance to reread it this fall. (That never happened, but Anne is probably best in summer anyway.)
At Christmas, though, a random library trip helped me discover A Secret Sisterhood, a new book all about the friendships between famous women writers and other women. It wasn’t Anne, but it was an echo, a welcome chance to reconnect.
(You might wonder why I didn’t just pick up Anne; I honestly don’t know why, aside from feeling tired and busy and just in the mood for something different. I find that serendipitous library visits are sometimes the best, and it’s good to just go with what you find when such visits happen.Also, A Secret Sisterhood is nonfiction, which is sometimes easier for me mentally in the thick of the year.)
Encountering old favorites via television became a theme again as the school year ended. By spring break, I’d noticed ads for Masterpiece’s Little Women, set to air in mid-May. I don’t know how it happened that my school year began and ended with some of my old favorites, but it feels right. As I move into summer and its blissfully different pace of being, revisiting Concord and the March girls has been – as Anne or maybe Jo might say – sublime.
To be clear, as yet I haven’t reread either Anne or Little Women, but reconnecting with them feels much the same. Both shows have taken me back to a place in my reading past that I haven’t been in years, and even though I haven’t turned a page, it’s like the books never left my mind.
I don’t know if I’ll manage rereading Anne or Little Women this summer after all. I’m not sure I have to, because that’s the beauty of old friends like these. You know each other so well after so many years that even just a glimpse back into the world you shared can make things feel right and bring you back to the person you sometimes forget you are or want to be when you’re in the busier days of life.
“Take some books and read; that’s an immense help; and books are always good company if you have the right sort.”
― Louisa May Alcott,