The spell of summer began to break yesterday, as Jessica Rennenkampf admired Sleeping Beauty's castle at the Enchanted Forest theme park in Ellicott City.
And these were the magic words: "School starts Monday."
"I'm sort of excited, and sort of not," said Jessica, 7, who will be a second-grader at Jeffers Hill Elementary School in Columbia. "I'm not going to have as much time to read, and I won't be able to horseback-ride much, and we won't be able to take four-day weekends."
You could almost hear the collective sigh this week, as thousands of students in Howard, Carroll and Anne Arundel counties thought briefly about going back to school on Monday -- and savored their last few days of summer vacation.
"The closer you get, the more you think about it," said Adam Scott, 14, on a break from playing volleyball with friends at the Thunder Hill Neighborhood Center in Columbia earlier this week. "Right now, I'm trying to spend as much time with friends, so I can have a good time before school starts."
In Champions arcade, on the upper level at Marley Station Mall in Anne Arundel County, Trishia Moreira, 10, banged away with a blue hammer at the "Wacky Gator" game. Summer went too fast, she said. As for school, "the sooner it starts, the sooner I can get out."
Across from her, Brian Murnane, 13, survived six stages in the "Alien vs. Predator" video game, featuring robot-like men firing heavy weapons. "I've just been having fun. I haven't thought about when school starts," he said.
His mother, Debbie Murnane, has done some of that thinking for him.
"He'll be going to senior high, and he's maturing," she said. "He's going to have a lot of changes coming soon. I think he's going to have a very good time."
At the Thunder Hill pool in Howard County, Susan Trapuzzano, 12, and Jessica Williams, 10, clad in black and green swimsuits, said they will have sleep-overs, ride bicycles and spend plenty of time swimming before Monday.
Susan, who will be a seventh-grader at Oakland Mills Middle School, said she already is dreading the academic load to come. "I don't like homework, and I don't like projects," she said.
At Lake Waterford Park, in Anne Arundel County, 11-year-old Drew Darlack cast his line into the muddy water.
Drew, going into the seventh grade at Old Mill Middle School, is unhappy that school will interrupt his passion, fishing.
"I'm hooked on it. . . . I'm like a person who smokes. I can't stop fishing," said Drew.
At Lake Elkhorn in Columbia, Michael Allen, 8, joined several friends playing on the man-made waterfall. He was less than pleased about the impending start of classes.
"I'm very sad because I don't like school, because it's boring," the third-grader said.
As 14-year-old Steven Sievers bought a Nirvana T-shirt at Marley Station, he reflected wistfully on the things he did this summer: a trip to Orlando, Fla., a visit to an Ohio amusement park, white-water canoeing in West Virginia.
"I want more summer," said Steven, who will be a ninth-grader at Severna Park High School. "More things to do."
BACK TO SCHOOL
Students in Howard, Carroll and Anne Arundel counties begin school on Monday.
Harford County students return Sept. 7.
Baltimore and Baltimore County students begin Sept. 8.