I’ve never been one to rise early to hit the opening minutes of a pre-Christmas sale. In fact, I’ve never been one to get up late—or any time—to get a bargain on holiday gifts for friends and family.
It’s not that we don’t exchange gifts—although lately we’re more inclined to give to charity instead of to each other—but because all the twinkling lights, shiny ornaments, and seasonal music remind me of wishes unfulfilled and dreams that never came true.
I was never good at holidays. Perhaps if I’d read more realistic books things might have been different. But there was a wide chasm between reality and those fictional descriptions of love and happiness, making the best of things, genuinely encouraging each other’s success, and building enduring togetherness. Too grounded in the way I wanted things to be, I did little to bridge that chasm, and now the memory of it overshadows the season.
Back-to-school sales, however, draw me in like a bass to a wiggling lure. I love to riffle the pages of blank notebooks, touch pens as yet untried, inhale the smell of new pencils, erasers, and glue sticks. I love the slick stacks of rulers and index cards and notebook dividers with colored tabs. I love to zip and unzip backpacks and imagine what will go into the pockets. I love new shoes and shirts and jeans. I love to see kids with fresh haircuts and eyes wide with a mix of fear and excitement and confidence.
But most of all, I love the sense of promise.
Like the pages in those new notebooks, the days of the school year ahead are blank pages on which students will write. There are possibilities and opportunities, tests to be aced and scholarships to be won.
And there are human dramas that, like a mystery with a plot twist in the middle, could change direction and have an ending other than the one we might expect. Struggling students could, this year, make connections. Shy kids could come out of the shadows at the back of the room. A bench warmer could win the big game. The girl who always painted sets for the drama club could get the starring role.
A back-to-school sale energizes me and makes me think about the possibilities in my own life. It makes me eager to plow into new writing projects and finish old ones.
And, to make sure that feeling comes home with me and lingers, I always buy a fresh notebook, a new pen, and a pack of pencils.