I’m having my yearly run-in with September allergies and accordingly have convinced myself no fewer than three times this week that I’ve lost my sense of smell and have been stricken with that-which-shall-not-be-named. It’s like the recurring dream that I had in high school, where it was opening night for a play and I’d forgotten to memorize my lines, except that I’m awake and instead of fearing a lack of preparedness, I’m fearing a real-life pandemic and its continued ability to wreak absolute havoc.
I took the last week off from this work. I deleted Twitter from my phone. I went days without opening Instagram. I didn’t glance at my email inbox. James was recovering from a minor but slightly less-than-straightforward surgery and so with three kids buckled into the back of the old station wagon we now call ours, I barreled up to Vermont for a quick hit of cousins and cows and lily ponds. It was glorious and exhausting.
James is back on campus this week for the first time since February 2020. He returned to a time capsule covered in a layer of fine dust. On the wall above his desk he found print-outs of a newly minted three-year-old and a kindergartener just learning to ride a two-wheeler and no pictures at all of the baby who hadn’t been born and is now marching herself into daycare.
Next week Faye starts second grade. Her primary fear is not finding a pair of sneakers to satisfy her various requirements for wear. My primary fear is a school year marked with the same chaos and confusion we struggled through last year. We’re starting things off with a missing water bottle and a lunchbox still in Vermont and everyone wearing an unruly selection of ill-fitting shoes, stinky from sweat and summer, but I’ve decided to take it all as a good omen. What we’re lacking in newness, we’re making up for with familiarity. We’re finding comfort in September’s skies; bright blue and cleared from overbearing humidity; comfort in Monarch butterfly sightings and honey bees hovering around September trash cans; comfort in bike rides before dinner. We have notes from new teachers and classroom supply lists and eventually, I trust, we’ll get those pencils sharpened and those laces tied.
How about you?