Ann Cannon is taking a break this week. We're reprinting one of our favorites that she wrote in August 2001 to mark the end of summer.

You fold another blanket left in the middle of the floor after last night's TV watch-a-thon.

Wipe up a puddle of melted popsicle from the kitchen counter.

Answer the telephone at midnight because someone is calling for one of your kids.

Survey the skateboards and scooters and bikes and other wheeled objects strewn throughout the entryway.

Search (dripping wet) for a clean towel in the linen closet, then remember that one by one, day after day, they've all been left at the swimming pool.

Look at your youngest son and wonder when the last time was that he changed his shirt. Begin to wonder the same scary thing about his underwear.

Glance at the pile of unread Baseball Weeklies by your favorite chair, stacked there in the hope that you'll eventually read them and realize nobody (including you) has read anything except the back of a Cap'n Crunch cereal box since school ended.

Walk outside where you feel defeated, depleted, demoralized and done in by the heat.

And then the moment comes — like it always does — where you say to yourself that even though summer is by far your favorite season, it's time for it to end. You start looking forward to the things you won't have to do again until next year — pulling slivers out of tough bare feet, picking up junior high kids from friends' houses night after night, going to the grocery store a dozen times a day because the food you thought you had in the fridge (surprise!) isn't there anymore. Swatting houseflies the size of hummingbirds in your kitchen.

Yes, you'll say to yourself the night before school starts, no more sleepovers in the middle of the week! Then you'll remember that scene in the novel "Open House" by Elizabeth Berg where a mother looks at her 11-year old son, wondering how she will break the news that his father has left them and remembering the days of innocence when he was small enough to sit in her lap.

"I don't hold Travis anymore," she says, "not to read to him, or for any other reason, either. I wish I'd known that the last time was going to be the last time. But of course that information would have been as painful as this moment."

Life is full of last times. If you sit on your porch tonight with the moon rising and the night air shot through with the scent of honeysuckle, just like it was those summer nights when you and your girlfriend Gigi slept in her grandmother's back yard, you can try to list them in your head.

The last night before you became your husband's wife.

The last haircut you gave your son before his light fine hair began to darken and turn coarse. The last time he asked you to play "Candyland" with him, and the last time he wasn't embarrassed to be seen eating hamburgers at Hires with you.

The last family vacation you all took to the beach before the oldest cousins began leaving for college.

The last conversation you had on a hot morning in Liberty Park with your girlfriend before learning about her husband's illness.

The last time you walked across a grassy field while the scent of the game that was just played there still lingered.

The last time you nursed your last baby.

Some of these things we prepare for. We take pictures. Write in journals. Mark their passing.

Some of them we don't. They end so quietly we hardly notice them slip away until one day something happens and we are suddenly reminded of the thing we no longer have in our lives.

The trick, of course, is to notice. And to love it while it's there.


E-MAIL: acannon@desnews.com