Monday, September 12, 2011

The Roar of the Pencil Sharpener, The Smell of the Crayons

September is the smell of fresh crayons. I love a nosegay of yellow pencils sprouting up from a jelly jar with sharpened points up in the air. There is nothing like the sound of a black and white Composition notebook crackling open for the first time. And the ultimate aroma…real library paste.

These are the smells of a new year. Not the one that happens in January, but the one that happens in the fall when school doors are thrown open and kids with shiny faces and heads full of expectation, trepidation, and illumination parade in for another year of mental expansion. Even though it’s been a long time since I’ve had a first day at school, I still surreptitiously sniff crayons at Target, and buy a pocket sized academic calendar. 

I pretend I’m starting over.

Well, I went a little overboard this year. As I mentioned a while ago, I'm growing out my hair. Every day I look a little more like me and less like the old widow lady that had been staring back from the mirror. I have a ceramic iron now and can actually use it. Coming from a woman who recently figured out which is the business end of a blow dryer, this is quite an accomplishment.

My erstwhile and eternally optimistic cousin Laurie accompanied me on the quest for new glasses. The old-lady rimless ones are gone, replaced by very fashion-forward Kate Spades with turquoise inside. (Like someone actually sees the inner rim of glasses???) Of course, they’re still lined trifocals (no progressives for me unfortunately) but they are Transitions lenses, so that has to count for something. And as if that was not enough for one season, Laurie is now muttering something about my wardrobe. Hey! Cut me some slack here! I don’t want to shock myself into the big one, y’know!

Right now, I am eagerly anticipating my friend Judy’s call to say she has first blush Macs all ready for me. I love popping over to her little orchard for a taste of whatever new apple she’s growing for the University of Minnesota and a chance to catch up on all the news. Judy always smells of fall and apples, and her tiny shop is just a wonderland of appley Judy-things.

But I digress. Indeed, it’s time to sharpen the pencils, buy new harvest apples, stock up on local honey…and begin that process of self-evaluation necessary for the coming Yam'im Nora'im (High Holy Days.) Now is the time to take a moment to think about where we’re were and where we’re going. Have we lived up the goals from last year, and to whom do we owe an apology for being a horse’s ass? The interesting thing about Jewish atonement is that G-d can’t forgive you for whacking your brother upside the head. Issues between people have to be resolved between those same people. You are responsible for clearing your own slate.

There is something daunting about this process, but I think it’s a necessary one. You have to pause to clean up your own messes. It’s not easy, nor should it be. Even getting ready for the process is its own deliberate process. And it should be a deliberate examination of the past year. You need to revisit the good as well as the bad. 

On the other hand, this is a symbolic time for new beginnings.  Kids get to have them on the first day of school. I want my own. A new pair of sneakers might be nice, or maybe a new pair of jeans. Meanwhile, a pencil bouquet is on my desk, and they all have really good erasers in case I make any mistakes....which I will, but I'm ready for whatever comes. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Never throw out a good jelly jar. They make the best repositories for weird stuff.


  1. You are making me all maudlin for my teaching days and for my days as an elementary school parent, as well !

  2. Knowing your brother as I do, if you whack him up the side of his head neither he nor G-d is likely to forgive you... and for gosh sakes, don't poke his eye out with one of your sharpened pencils.

  3. With your new hair and glasses, now you're almost marketable!

  4. Does that asking for forgivness... go for making fun of others typing skills...... Just asking from my grove of apple trees.

  5. Dear Anonymous-in-the-Grove,
    You're right; I'm sorry.