Back to school is an intense time in my household. There’s the shopping for binders and folders with kitties or the cast of Victorious printed on them, the “right” pencils and notebooks, shoes and socks and new clothes and underwear. When I was a child, I remember that even when we were at our poorest, back-to-school was still new clothes and new shoes, and a new start, even though it might have meant a long Bradlees layaway and stressful figuring on my mom’s part. (My mom who, this year, bought Amelia practically her whole middle school wardrobe. I never, ever lose perspective on how different my children’s childhood is from mine.)
After the requisite fashion show in the living room, narrated by Abby (“Now here’s a perfect look for those crisp fall days in the city…”) there’s getting back to the routines of homework, after-school activities and schedules, rehearsals, and the general pace of my family’s life in the fall.
It’s never easy, especially after a mellow, peaceful summer of reading novels in the swing under the oak trees and swimming at the secret beach.
September feels very different for me this year than it has in a long while. For one thing, my oldest has started middle school, in the very grade that I teach, and thinking of my curly-haired baby in this sitting amidst the pressures and mysterious social catacombs of 6th grades kind of freaks me out, to tell the truth. I mean, I know we’ve prepared her; she’s smart and confident and enthusiastic, but still…my baby. Abby, on the other hand, now in 5th grade, is loving the sense of independence from being the Oldest in the School, and having her sister…elsewhere.
There is a shift in the energy of my household from Patrick’s focus on his novel. Head’s down, past-the-middle serious writing, and I can feel that in the walls, even. It’s very exciting and having him so energized and happy has made a huge difference in this fall.
For me? Well, auditions for my high school show were this weekend, and instead of the normal sense of anxiety and even dread that I feel when I have to launch into this (for a lot of reasons), this year I am really looking forward to it. It’s a show I’ve never done and really like, and the last time I directed a musical I’ve never done before, it was so dance-centric that I felt like I couldn’t really totally get a handle on all of it. Plus, there were several people in that cast who annoyed me really, really badly, and it did not make for the most pleasant time. Other than that, the past five years have just had me in a musical recycling mode, and it bored me. This year, some of my most adored kids ever are seniors, the cast turned out to be spectacular, and I think it’s just going to be such fun. It’s such a silly, sassy show, very stylized and lively. That, along with the fact that I saw it on Broadway with Harry Potter in the lead on my very 40th birthday during my favorite weekend of my whole year, and it’s just a great big happy combo of good good good.
Here in 6th grade, I’ve already started in earnest on a very intense writing program, and it’s been great for the kids and good for me, too. (Hence, I think, my ability to even contemplate a return to this blog. In a room full of writing, it’s hard to resist the call.) I like my kids this year, mostly, even though a few of them are…well, really weird. You might remember Sam, who I wrote about last year, and who we kept back, in our class for 6th grade again this year. He missed the first day because of the hurricane. He came the second day…and then did not come back again. For several days, he did not come back. I called to talk to him, and he slammed the door. He could not deal with the other kids knowing he’d been kept back. It took some doing on the part of a lot of people, but we got him back. We had a talk, again, about the man he wants to be, and how he chooses right now to become that, or risk becoming like the kids and adults he left behind in Roxbury, on drugs, on the System, on the street. I’m trying to help him know his intuition, listen to the voice that’s the best of himself, because I can hear it already. We all could, all of us here, right from day one. He can too, when he tries. I hope he’ll keep trying.
So, here in September, I’ve dusted off my sense of purpose, renewed my addiction to toasted almond coffee, and set out again to do a little something in my corner of the world.