It’s spring in the academic village, with blossoming fruit trees all over campus, the ground smelling of fresh mud, and once again my thoughts turn to summer. I think of those long, delicious months when, without the telephone ringing and student papers sitting on my desk ungraded, without faculty meetings and office hours, without classes to prepare, I’m free again to work exclusively on my own writing. My e-mails will dwindle to communications with a few good friends. Some mornings, I might even sleep in. But spring also brings with it a small feeling of dread. “April is the crudest month,” wrote T. S. Eliot—a memorable line. I think of it again as lawn mowers drone outside the open windows of my classroom, a sweet wind blows papers off my desk, and I begin to anticipate the end of another school year, with the many losses that inevitably attend that moment, marked so vividly by the graduation ceremony, when half a dozen kids I had really come to like, even love, wave to me from the platform as they proceed into their adult life, diplomas in hand. I’m aware that one or two from each class will remain friends forever, but I know as well that there will be many— the majority of those whom I genuinely considered friends—who won’t. It’s not their fault, I tell myself. They will get busy. Soon spouses and children will lay claim to their attention. I’m just a passing figure in their lives; they know this, and I know it. It’s not as bad as it sounds, given the demands I feel myself toward spouse and family, toward a circle of friends that has widened decade by decade. There is only so much attention to go around. I begin to feel this little dread coming on in late March, when the spring snows in Vermont begin to thaw. Huge piles of the stuff grow wet at the edges, melting slowly, so that by the middle of April there are puddles everywhere, and I have for the first time to wear my waders to school.
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