The Most Wonderful Day of the Year

The summer days dwindled. Like the entire Upper West Side cabal of parents, I spent Labor Day at Harry’s Shoes and Staples.

At Staples, I muttered, “Sorry” to at least half a dozen people after I rammed their heels with one of my two carts.

Let traditionalists bemoan the loss of family rituals, I hold fast to a favorite — back to school shopping. Nowadays, internet-savvy, organized parents may order their school supplies on-line. Not me. I prefer the real-life bashing of plastic shopping carts and grabs for that last protractor.

I feel my year starts anew at the beginning of every fresh school year. I make resolutions — blog everyday; get the kids involved in chores; allow no TV until homework’s done; lay out clothes the night before.

The back to school outfit matters. Hayden wore a mint green collared shirt and blue checked shorts. He fussed with his hair, nearly breaking into tears over an unruly collick. Charlotte had a puffy white polka-dotted top and cut-offs. Catherine a teal, hand-me-down blouse from Deirdre and long jean shorts.

These are my fifth graders and my seventh grader. Hayden is as tall as me; the girls a perfect height for slinging an arm over their shoulders and pulling them in tight.

I wanted to hold each child’s hand as I walked Hayden to the 7:38 am bus and the girls to school. But they saw their friends and jibber jabbered the whole way.

Quickly they let me grab their cheeks and smooch them goodbye. They only rolled their eyes for a moment. Then they turned and went towards school. Their light backpacks bouced on their backs, full of empty three-ring binders and unwritten-on spiral notebooks.

I hung back and marvelled.

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