Life is full of days that mark new beginnings. The very first new beginning no one ever sees and only a few actually suspect, when a tiny swimmer finds it’s way to a newly released egg and a new soul begins the journey toward life. The day of our birth is far more celebrated, a day of shocking new reality for the infant just thrust into the world, a day of tears and celebration for the family welcoming it into their midst. And that’s just the start. There will be so many firsts to follow. First step, first word, the first time a child realizes he can say no – the beginning of independence.
Some new beginnings, like that moment of conception, are quiet and hardly noticed. Sometimes it’s a choice we make that at the time seems almost inconsequential, yet on later reflection we realize took us in an entirely new direction. Perhaps instead of going to your regular coffee shop you went to the one around the corner and met the person who would turn out to be your soul mate. Maybe you stopped to help someone out and ended up five minutes late for an interview and didn’t get the job you thought you wanted, but the following week, you landed the job you were meant to have.
Other beginnings are flashier – accompanied by serious fanfare. New Year’s Day, preceded by New Years Eve and often marked by resolutions that you might or might not keep and a big family dinner mark the beginning of each new calendar year. Birthday cakes loaded with flaming candles presented while family and friends sing the birthday song in appalling harmony mark another year of life. White dresses, churches decked with flowers and elaborate receptions to follow mark the beginning of two lives twined into one.
But there’s another new beginning we all experience every year as summer draws to an end and another school year begins. Summer has always been my favorite season, one I never wanted to end. As a child it meant freedom from school and what felt like an endless landscape of days I could fill any way I pleased. But it also brought warm weather and glorious sunshine and warmth with swimming and sailing.
Then, far more abruptly than I was ever prepared for came the night I had to dig out a blanket. Even in the midst of summer’s most bountiful lushness, red leaves would begin to appear on the trees. Just a few at first, then more. And I knew the end of summer was on its way and fall was just around the corner.
Here in the northern hemisphere, fall is also the beginning of a new school year. Even before we pack away the summer toys, close up the camps, and tie tarpaulins over the boats we’re looking forward to school. Lists of supplies arrive for grade school kids, moms dig out school uniforms only to find their kids have grown over the last two months and will need new ones. Everyone is shopping for school.
For some students, it’s off to college – another life-changing first for both student and parent. Another huge new beginning – the start of life as an adult for the student, the end of an era for the parents who are letting go of the child they’ve nurtured so carefully for eighteen years. It’s an inevitable change in the relationship that everyone knew was coming and some aren’t really ready to accept.
My children are all grown with families of their own, I’m retired, and it’s now my grandchildren who are going off to college, but even so the first red leaves on the trees and the first time I see the big yellow bus lumbering its way along the street, there’s a feeling of nostalgia for the summer that is ending. I just had a fantastic week at the lake filled with family and fun, but now it’s back to work on a book that has a deadline later this fall. In a few days, I’ll start getting texts from my children with pictures of my grandchildren going off to school with big smiles and new backpacks. It will be a time for picking apples and the start of football season.
Summer is ending -- Another new beginning.