Although the calendar tells us that the actual New Year doesn't begin until January, for most of us, the new year begins in September. That is the time when children and adults alike head back to school. They sport new clothes and carry new school supplies. The promise of a new year full of possibilities and adventure spans before them like the ocean stretching endlessly to the horizon. Back-to-school outfits offer the potential of transforming the identity, turning Plain Jane into the head cheerleader. A new teacher means erasing all the errors and mistakes of the previous year. All the pencils are long and sharp, their erasers complete. Backpacks are organized and free of trash and completed assignments.
Even for us non-students, September offers a new beginning. Parents send their children off to school, knowing that they will live a portion of their life free from their oversight and protection. School becomes a world where parents are seldom allowed and children can try out their wings. TV watchers look forward to the promise of new shows and new story-lines. The summer life we lived, full of vacations and campfires and trying to keep the backyard pool free of green algae, wanes as the days grow shorter and a chill creeps into the air. Dieters vow to lose a few pounds before the allure of Halloween candy calls them back to their usual routines.
In my house, this time of year means it is time to sort through the closets, pulling out the old clothes that no longer fit and making room for the newly purchased back to school things. This year I pulled a few items from the back of my seven-year-old's rack. "How about this Snow White costume?", I wondered. "Do you ever play dress up anymore?" "No.", she responded. "And this Sleeping Beauty dress? Should we get rid of that too?" "Yep.", she replied. So I bagged up the princess costumes, glancing at the movie poster for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse on her wall as I did so. "Can I go watch TV now?", my daughter asked a few minutes later when the task was completed. I said she could and it wasn't long before I could hear the sounds of iCarly or some other Disney Channel sitcom. I wondered when she stopped watching cartoons and started watching shows featuring teenage actors dealing with acne and boyfriends. Was it about the same time she stopped pretending to be a princess and started imagining she was a vampire?
Enjoy these last weeks of summer and cherish too the idea that a new year can transform you into a different person.