We tell ourselves that Fall has begun, because it’s September. It hasn't, and we know it. But it has, and we know that, too. The old buried memories of the first day of school waft up to the surface like the bubbles of gas given off by a decaying corpse -
No, let me rephrase that. Jeez. Too dark too soon, dude. The old buried memories turn out not to be buried at all, just tucked away in a closet in another room, with Uncle Frank. Him we should have buried, though.
No, let me rephrase that. The memories aren’t in another room, but in a drawer in the room where you live, perhaps under that notepad from a hotel where you stayed six years ago. No, that’s your wife’s drawer. She has all these pads for writing things down, and they’re never used sequentially. It’s not as if she goes through one pad, then another. Some things get jotted down on one pad, then it goes in the drawer, and the next time she needs one, somehow another pad has worked its way to the top, and she uses that. And so many pens! They came home from the office, hitching a ride, one by one, until the drawer was full of them, all black, uncapped, in varied states from useful and dry. If all the humans disappeared and aliens came down and started doing through our stuff, they would figure out that words were written on these pads, but there would be one thing that would baffle them: a little squiggle. It had no obvious meaning. It was not part of the alphabet. They would have no idea that it was a line drawn to test the pen, or perhaps prime the ball at the tip.
No, let me rephrase that. They would figure it out eventually, because her drawer had the pads with the squiggles, and my drawer didn’t, because I only use one pen, and it always works without having to make a squiggle. Once the aliens compared the pens, they would see how the ones in this drawer were mostly dry, but the one in this drawer was not. This assumes they arrive within a few months of humanity’s disappearance, and came in such great numbers they could spare a few guys to go through the drawers for sociological information.
Anyway, I don’t remember the particulars of going back to school, but I do remember the emotions. Other school memories are just general and ubiquitous - the sound of the locker door slamming, the way the handle felt weighty and loose. The cold tang of the fountain water, the finality of the bell, the smell of the pencil sharpener - woodier than your little plastic ones, with a note of oil.
Daughter’s college starts today, and she’s excited. Going back to college is different than going back to school.
You don’t go home at noon for a grilled cheese sandwich.
To quote Bill Murray, I want to party with this guy:
The artist: “Jean-Simon Berthélemy (5 March 1743 – 1 March 1811) was a French history painter who was commissioned to paint allegorical ceilings for the Palais du Louvre, the Luxembourg Palace and others, in a conservative Late Baroque-Rococo manner only somewhat affected by Neoclassicicism."
Those were the specific instructions! Affected, yes, but only somewhat!
This is notable:
Berthélemy was an esteemed painter in his day, chosen to join the entourage accompanying Napoleon's campaign in Italy, where he was among the experts assigned the task of selecting works of art to be transferred to Paris under terms of the Treaty of Tolentino, February 1797.
The treaty also formalized the confiscation of artistic treasures from the Vatican. Over a hundred paintings and other works of art were to go to the Louvre in Paris. The French commissioners reserved the right to enter any building, public, religious or private, to make their choice and assessment of what was to be taken to France. This part of the treaty was extended to apply to all of Italy in 1798 by treaties with other Italian states.
Jeez, Boney, rub it in.
And this, well, I love it.
When two monographs on Berthélemy were published in 1979, Philip Conisbee, reviewing them in The Burlington Magazine, observed drily: "Two monographs on Berthélemy is overkill for a painter who could have been dispatched with a single substantial article. The French academic system of art education in the eighteenth century, backed up by the stimulus of church and state patronage, was so efficient and rigorous that even an average talent could be sufficiently conditioned to produce a handful of decent history-paintings, which are sometimes minor masterpieces."
He has a point.
Oh, the subject of the painting? Some dude named Didder-Ott, or something.