Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Steely Dan -- "Reelin' in the Years" (1972)

Your everlasting summer
You can see it fading fast

Summer will officially end on September 21 this year -- just a few days from now.

But let's face it: summer's already over.

I took my fourth (and last) child to college last month -- assuming I don't get a new young wife some day, of course.  (You'll see a number of pictures from "move-in" day at Gettysburg College below.)

For many of us, the first day of school marks the end of the summer and the first day of a new year.  It's a more important symbol of new beginnings and the passage of time than January 1.

The start of a new school year always involves adjusting to changes, but some transitions are more difficult than others.

Remember the year you moved from middle school to high school?  You had unfamiliar  teachers and an unfamiliar building to deal with.  On the other hand, most of the students you saw every day were familiar, and you still lived in the same house.

The most dramatic transition is the one from the final year of high school to the first year of college -- at least for every freshmen attending a college in a different city than the one where his or her high school was.  You not only have a different physical environment to get used to, but an entirely different educational environment as well.

And while you may know a few of your fellow freshmen, it's often the case that you arrive at your college not knowing a single other student.  You're thrown in with strangers at the same time you're taken away from your friends -- not to mention your parents, siblings, and pets.

Upperclassmen helping freshmen and their
families move into one of the Gettysburg dorms
Most significantly, you're expected to leave childhood behind and start acting like an adult.  The "everlasting summer" of childhood begins "fading fast" when you go to college, although you don't lose touch entirely with childhood until you become a parent yourself.

I took my youngest child to college last month.  It was the fourth time I'd gone through this peculiar little ritual.  So no big deal, right?

Chaos reigns in the bookstore on move-in day
But it was a big deal -- although that fact didn't hit me until some time later.

I didn't dread my oldest son going off to college for a number of reasons -- I was absolutely confident that he would be successful (he was), and I still had three kids living at home to distract me from his absence.

Three years later, I took my twin daughters to two different colleges on successive weekends.  That was harder -- I was not only losing two children instead of one, but I was losing two daughters.  (Any father who has daughters understands.)

But I took comfort from the fact that my youngest son was born eight years after his sisters, so he wasn't going anywhere for a long, long time -- that is, if you consider eight years a long, long time.  

It's not, boys and girls.  In fact, it's absolutely shocking what a short period of time it is.

The oldest building at Gettysburg
College: Pennsylvania Hall (1837)
My son's "everlasting summer" may be "fading fast" now that he's going to college. but mine's been gone for some time now.  I'm well into fall -- and that's a best-case scenario.  (It may be the last week of December for me -- hopefully not, but you never know.)

They say that having kids keeps you young.  So when your kids go off to college and aren't children any more, what does that make you?  (Here's a hint: it's three letters long, and the first letter is "O" and the last one is "D.")

The class of 2017 is officially
welcomed to Gettysburg College
"Reelin' in the Years" was released when I was a junior in college, and the song is about a college-age couple who aren't exactly seeing eye to eye:

The weekend at the college
Didn't turn out like you planned 
The things that pass for knowledge 
I don't understand

Steely Dan didn't write songs for high-schoolers -- their target demographic was the college-educated crowd.

"Reelin' in the Years" isn't the only Steely Dan song that references college.  The group's founders, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, met in 1967 while they were students at Bard College in upstate New York.  Their song "My Old School" is about an unpleasant incident that took place at Bard in 1969 (although the song mentions only William and Mary University by name).

Here's "Reelin' in the Years":

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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