Last evening after dinner, I gathered up all of the shopping bags full of back-to-school supplies I'd accumulated over the previous few weeks and dumped them in the middle of the family room, with a cheerful announcement that it was time to get the new backpacks organized for next week. Based on the reactions I got from Noah and Will, you'd think I had dropped a poisonous snake in the middle of the floor. They recoiled from the bags, eyes wide with disgust, and the room was suddenly filled with the sounds of agonized groans and indignant shrieks. I carried on anyway, and sat in the middle of the piles of bags where I began to open packages of new markers and scissors and glue, and to label everything with the appropriate boy's name. Somewhere between the unzipping of a pencil case and the lacing up of a new pair of gym shoes, the boys seemed to experience a change of heart. Noah came over and quietly began sharpening all of his and Will's new pencils, and Will, after examining the neatly organized contents of the school bag he had picked out himself, voluntarily admitted, "Okay, maybe I'm a little excited about going back to school. But just a little." Noah sheepishly agreed.
I completely understand that bit of eager anticipation the boys felt after setting their newly filled backpacks expectantly in the front hall to await the first day of another school year. (I used to feel it every September as a child, too.) Those smooth pencils, each sharpened to a perfect point and lined up neatly beside one another, and the endless sheets of crisp, lined paper filled only with open spaces, seem to hold so much promise within. Anything is possible at this point; the pencils and paper will come to reveal whatever stories the boys choose to tell as the next year of their lives unfolds. There will be new classrooms, new teachers, new friendships, new experiences, and many new opportunities to grow. I wonder if the boys have any idea how many hopes and good wishes I've zipped up in those backpacks for them along with their collections of supplies.
In the coming year, I hope that the boys' incredible capacity for thought and creativity will be recognized and encouraged, so that they may be free to soar wherever their amazing minds will take them. I wish them exciting moments of discovery about both the world and themselves, along with lots of chances for laughter, and many experiences of the kind of joyful success that comes from working hard for it and learning from mistakes. I hope that they will nurture old friendships and develop new ones, while always having the courage to be themselves and to stand up for what they believe is good and right. And because I know that Noah and Will must have secret hopes of their own for this coming year, I wish for them that they will listen to their hearts, which are sure to lead them to their individual happiness.
It's funny how the small, simple act of filling up new backpacks with school supplies for our children carries with it such monumental significance. As the boys grow older, I wonder if this time of year will ever feel less poignant as we prepare for them to go out and discover still more of the world on their own.... Somehow, I don't think it will.