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Back to School, Again

September 5, 2014

It’s back-to-school time once again. There’s an oddly appropriate redundancy in that phrase — we’re not just going back, we’re going back again. Been there, done that to death. Nothing new to say — hasn’t it all been said? Doesn’t it get said every year?

Time to stock up on school supplies! Time to schedule carpools and classes! Time to shop for shoes and clothes! Maybe you’re buying shorts that the kids will wear for a few weeks in September, where it’s suddenly hotter than it was all summer, because the ones you got in May now don’t fit.

Time to set that alarm again! Time to get back into rush-hour traffic! Time to utter “Ugh, re-entry!”

Time for some people to say, “I loved summer, but by the end was counting the days til school started,” or, “I’m SO ready for back to school,” or, “It was the longest summer ever!”

Time for others to say, “Summer could never last long enough,” or, “I’m NEVER ready for back to school,” or, “It was the shortest summer ever!”

Goodbye to all that summer...

Goodbye to all that summer…

For some parents with full-time jobs and little or no vacation, maybe their kids were in camp or other programs all summer, and this “back to school” isn’t really back at all. It’s where they’ve been all along.

For others, maybe the “lazy days of summer” were a bit too lazy, and the schedule that “back to school” brings is a greeted with relief. Alternatively, maybe summer was more exhausting than the school year. Maybe you crammed every family member and the dog in the car and road-tripped your way up, down, around, and through summer.

And yet for others, maybe starting the school year again is literally like a rocket re-entering the atmosphere, the family shedding parts of an idyllic summer as it crashes back down to earth.

Yes, we’re all getting back in the swing, back to the grind. Back in the car, the kitchen, the office. Back on the sidelines, the bleachers, the ball fields. Back to reality.

But … Are we really back?

Is any season ever the same as it was in years past? Is any day, hour, minute? We’re all facing something new, no matter how “back” in it we are. My three children are, for the moment, all in the same school — the parental equivalent of a triple sow-cow, double toe-loop. So my landing “back” should be pretty well-cushioned. Not too many re-inventions this year.

Yet I find myself looking forward to the coming school year mostly when I ponder what’s new about it, what’s changing, and what’s maybe even surprising — the unknowns in store.

This may be triggered by something as simple as a new sport or teacher, a new volunteer or work project. But it’s something that shakes up the routine, that energizes the field. Because otherwise, when I think about going “back” this time of year, I feel a bit complacent, a tad bored, a little stale.

No, I much prefer to think about going “onward” to school, moving “into” the fall, heading “toward”… good things to come.

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