School Supplies

I've been saying this for years: we need calendar reform.

There is no reason on earth--aside from sheer bloody-minded adherence to tradition--for the New Year to begin on January 1st.  The celebration, when it comes, practically lands on top of another celebration (one which may stretch out over a whole month) which has left us exhausted and overspent, which is one reason why I've spent the vast majority of my New Year's Eves lying stuporous in front of the TV, marveling at Dick Clark's Cylon-like skinjob, rather than leaping drunkenly around the streets waiting for something to explode.

New Year's Day should, one presumes, be a day to start something afresh, to abandon the old and stride into the new, to forget yesterday and focus on tomorrow.  Unfortunately, it ends up in most cases being a day where one simply cannot forget yesterday because yesterday's excesses are kicking the insides of your skull and making you focus entirely on them. The best you can do for a view of the future is to think "I'll never do THAT again," but that's a little negative, to my way of thinking.

And when you do eventually get done with your vomiting and get back to work... you're BACK to work. It's the same work. In many schools, you don't even get to start a new semester; instead, you get a few weeks of review and study in the dim chill of winter, now drained of the promise of Christmas break, and then you get exams.

This is why the year should begin on September 1st.

Think about it. For at least twelve years of your life, your year DID begin on (roughly) that date. You gathered your new school supplies, stuffed them into a backpack (new if you were lucky), put on at least one article of clothing you hadn't worn before (a lot of the stuff from the year before didn't fit anyway), and stepped into your homeroom to begin a new grade. It was in fact time to focus on the future, to take on new roles, learn new things, and establish new viewpoints. Fall has promise.

Fall promises something special: change. Fall promises that the impenetrable wall of green around you will turn and begin to let light through. Fall promises that the monarch butterflies will sail by, that the geese will point their Vs southward overhead, that everywhere you'll see bronze and maple and pumpkin against the crystal blue above. Fall promises a new football season: tailgating and marching bands and the collision of bodies grown bigger and stronger over the summer.  Fall promises a chance to be more than you were before.You might try out for a team or audition for a play this year. You might meet a new girl, or dance with that guy you'd been crushing on for two years. You might earn higher grades this year, or make the cheerleading squad, or get into the college of your choice.

You don't need a resolution in the fall.  Fall IS a resolution: This too shall pass. January's only resolution is "Don't let that draft in."

Fall is a brand-new box of flat-nosed yellow pencils, waiting to come alive in your hand, to become notes and stories and sketches. January is a half-empty ballpoint pen, a bit balky at times, slightly chewed on the end, that's being used to finish sums you started adding when you left work in December. 

Fall is a first kiss, a bit uncertain, a bit too long or too short, perhaps, but electric with the promise of more. January is a peck on the cheek in the kiss-and-ride lot, carrying only the promise that you've got a long train ride ahead and you'll have to hope the guy next to you doesn't fall asleep on your shoulder and drool.

Fall is the waitress arriving unexpectedly with your order, a plate redolent with possibility and served with a smile. January is the busboy arriving to refill your water glass; he's interrupting an important point in the conversation to fulfill his glum obligation, and he might even spill it on you.

In short, as you go about your business over the next few weeks, whether it's hitting Target to find those Hannah Montana spiral notebooks you've been ordered to bring home, or pulling into overcrowded parking lots trying to figure out which of the surly black-shirted teens is the one you're supposed to let into your car, consider what you're actually doing: observing the New Year.  Toot your horn, raise your glass, sing "Auld Lang Syne," whatever.

But don't let anyone tell you to wait until January.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on August 22, 2008 7:05 AM.

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