I want to tell you all the things I've always believed about the start of school. That I've written about numerous times as a parenting editor and writer.
I want to share the fervent belief I've held that the first of September is the real New Year. That it cleans the floor with January 1st, whipping it soundly with its beautiful weather, sense of possibility and fall fashions. How compared to the consumer hangover of darkest New Year's Day, the beginning of September and the start of school hold all the promise of new routines, countless dreams of skills we may acquire, harvest menus we'll plan, and leaf-crunching walks in the park. That from summer's lazier and less-structured days, our lives - and our families - will come into their true shape, and anything will be possible.
While it may be the kids who go back to school, it's always seemed to me that anyone is entitled to the satisfaction of a new box of pencils (hell, a box with a pencil skirt could do the job nicely as well). We send our children back to the classroom, perhaps stumbling under the girth of out-sized backpacks, but sporting new shoes, haircuts and shiny faces. A little stunned that summer is over, they may be, but nonetheless riding a wave of good esteem, nervous energy and snazzy sneakers.
Whether I had a new baby on my hip or a job to get to, I've always tried to hold on to the sense of renewal and possibility I felt with the arrival of the school year. Who knew how many yoga classes I'd get to, goals I'd meet or dinner parties I'd throw. Maybe I'd pen a book pitch or just wear something cable knit and feel delicious.
Surprising, then, a year ago to find life unraveling like a cheap sweater. A marriage coming apart, my father dying a death none of us could comprehend (lung cancer in a non-smoking marathon runner), this was not a season of happy possibility and enriching extra-curricular activity. Beneath a veneer of work-place productivity and family business - nights punctuated by a wakeful one-year-old - was a life I didn't recognize.
The first-born daughter, the one who does everything in the right order, certainly doesn't fail at marriage, you see. The healthy, hard-working Norwegian doesn't kick-it from a smoker's disease. And a parenting editor, for Christ's sake, certainly doesn't find herself signing the kids up for a lifetime of "who's-got-me-this-weekend?" How's that for a grief and guilt sandwich?
But then I'm smart enough to know that every life has its seasons of discontent. That it throws two or three biggies at you at once because it just does. That we can go from owning the crisp fall morning to falling right over. And that, little by little, while the psyche resists, we can put together something that begins to feel like a new normal.
Hitting a bump once more at exactly this time of year, when I want to reclaim myself, is a gift, I guess, even if it's wrapped in fish paper. The job is to fall in love again with September. To imagine things that will feel right. And to own my old New Year.