Friday, September 3, 2010

A Change of Seasons

Oh, the dog days of summer. It’s a season of sensations. Open the back door and sweaty kids and dogs swoosh by. Who smells worse? It’s a toss-up. Here’s a summer sensation: that constant bloated feeling from too many cookouts with too many watermelon wedges and condiment laden hot dogs. Holy tummy trouble, Batman! And family vacations: don’t get me started. Cooped up with people twenty-four hours a day, people with whom you would not normally spend more than two hours a week. Help.

But now, summer is essentially over and not a sweltering moment too soon. I’m looking forward to a celebrating a new season. But what is there to celebrate in late summer?

Back-to-school is the closest thing we have to a national holiday between the 4th of July and Labor Day. The seasonal aisle at your local Walmart even changes colors. Gone are the red, white and blue paper plates and streamers. Now it’s black and white composition notebooks, rows of bright blue and orange Elmer’s Glue bottles and the nostalgically soothing green and gold Crayola boxes. Have you seen that Nike has a shoe in each of those color schemes? They are released just in time for the big business that is called back-to-school. The cool shoes and mega-sales pull parents into the maelstrom of the malls.

Whether you are the parent or the child there are emotions that go along with this “holiday” just like any other. There is a heightened sense of frantic joy knowing that the days are numbered. The brand-new school year with its unknown details is right around the corner and it is electrifying. New teachers, new friends, sometimes a whole new school. New clothes, new lunch box, new crayons, oh, such heady stuff!

You probably have indelible memories of shopping for all that new stuff. Those memories can be pleasant or unpleasant depending on your experience. Was it an amazing adventure or a foray into battle? Was it a buying bonanza or did money have to be spread thinly amongst several children? Were there cool clothes and a cool lunchbox or are you still haunted by the ridicule you endured for that faux leather vest?

Rare is the child who did not lay awake the night before school started wondering if the next day’s experiences would match the visions in his head. Hopes were for nice teachers and friends that accepted you, even in a faux leather vest. If you were changing schools, maybe you worried about finding your way in uncharted territory. And do you remember the angst you felt the first year you would have to “dress out” for gym class? Maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, there is no argument that this time of year is filled with what has become an American ritual. I see it happening around me and think: what marks time for me at this stage of my life? I do not participate in the back-to-school frenzy anymore. I’m a little nostalgic for the time when there were clearly defined transitions in life. I need some sort of ritual that draws a line of demarcation from one season to the next. Life indeed has its seasons and it would be nice to anticipate each change with a flurry of joyous activity. Changes in our lives usually descend on us unannounced. I’d like a little preparation time when everything is about to change.

Maybe I’ll work on that; a buying spree before every major change in my life. Buy myself some crayons and new tennis shoes. Oh wait, I already do that. So maybe, I’ll just imagine that tomorrow is the first day of a new “school of life” for me. I can joyously anticipate that tomorrow will be filled with adventures to live, lessons to learn, friends to make and new territory to navigate.

Anticipating tomorrow with joy is like enjoying the aroma of a backyard barbecue. Even the smell is delicious. Enjoying the anticipation that tomorrow may be something bigger, the start of a new adventure, makes today even better. I don’t have to fear tomorrow. I can celebrate it today. That makes today count.