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School Daze

Imagine, if you will, a suburban household at 8:15 a.m. Let’s just pretend that the house exists on a quiet, shady street, in the middle of bucolic bliss. Like perhaps in a village 30 minutes north of New York City.

Oh, what the heck, let’s just call it Scarsdale.

So it is 8:15 in the morning in Scarsdale, and it’s September. And in this particular place at this particular time, the household goes into momentary panic mode. For argument’s sake, let’s just pretend that there is a mom and three elementary-aged kids inside this abode. Now, I’m just guessing here, and remember that this is pretend, so I can make up all kinds of crazy stuff if I want to, but I think the mom is shouting at two, if not all three, of her children, at this very moment.

“Molly, put on your shoes!”

“David, where is your homework? Did you do it last night? Did you put it in your homework folder?”

“Remember the permission slip!”

“Don’t forget that you are going home with Tyler after school!”

“Please eat your lunch today – I packed your favorite!”

“Brush your hair!”

“Brush your teeth!”


“The bus is coming!”

“The bus is here!”


It is now 8:16 am. The children pile into the minivan with an over-the-top, harried mom, who is on the verge of cursing under her breath in all manner of colorful language. She cannot believe that the children need to be driven to school again when she pays taxes for the convenience (and green-ness) that is known as the yellow school bus.

If all that carbon monoxide is green, that is.

Is this your morning?

Welcome back-to-school, everyone! Happy September to you all. Hope you had a nice, relaxing vacation down the shore or up the coast or right here in the middle.

My summer was lovely, thanks for asking.

Yes, I missed you too.

For those of you who know me, you know that I always – and I mean like 30 plus years of always – go to Nantucket for my summer vacation. Not this year. This year, my children and Brett and I tried something different, something novel, something completely in-law-less.

First, we went to the Jersey Shore. Way down. Exit 13 off the Garden State Parkway, where no Scarsdalian has gone before. Down there, people come from Philly, and random parts of Pennsylvania that I’ve never heard of, and even Delaware. I didn’t see anyone I knew. For seven relaxing, sun-filled days, I didn’t see any Bodyfit or Circle of Friends stickers on any cars, or any New York license plates whatsoever.

“What’s that accent I keep hearing everywhere?” I asked Brett one afternoon in Cape May, as we strolled the quaint Victorian streets with our kids. “Is it…southern?”

“Yeah. We’re in the beginning of the south, you know.” Brett teased.

“New Jersey was a part of the Confederacy?” I paused, trying to think back to 11th grade. “Really?”

So close to home, and yet a world away from all the New Yorkers in Massachusetts.

On the Jersey Shore, we played a lot of mini-golf. We ate something called “water ice” which is basically Italian Ice, only somehow better. Creamier. Like sorbet. (Brett thinks they removed the national label for political correctness. I’m like, “is the term ‘Italian Ice’ derogatory? Since when?” We debated this for quite some time. When on a family vacation, you can do this sort of thing since no one has to leave to catch a train to the city or a bus to school.) On the Jersey Shore, we walked the boardwalks and spent six hours straight in inner tubes at a water park and then rode on huge Ferris wheels perched next to the Atlantic. We bought hermit crabs painted as Sponge Bob and kept them as pets in fancy cages bought at the five and dime in town. We jumped off a private dock into the bay located right in our own backyard. And we all had a blast.

But wait: there’s more. Then we spent a week in the Hamptons, reconnecting with our peeps. Get-togethers with different friends from Scarsdale moved seamlessly from lazy afternoons on the beach to tranquil evenings all together, with wine in hand. Every day was more restful and beautiful than the next.

And then September 7th arrived and my summer came to a screeching halt.

Registration for fall classes nearly sent me over the edge. Is Andrew elite enough for junior elite tennis? Will Zoe get off the waitlist for preschool gymnastics, and will her name be selected by lottery for the coveted Wednesday Coach Terrific class? Will my doctoral committee member who is on sabbatical in Sweden (or Denmark? Maybe Norway? Definitely not New Jersey) ever get back to me about revisions to chapter five of my dissertation?

Coming home after summer vacation is like being in a car commercial: I go from zero to sixty in under five seconds.

To manage the stress of September, I tried to plan ahead. Really I did. This year, I went to Staples for school supplies over Fourth of July weekend in order to beat the back-to-school crowds. Only they hadn’t gotten their back-to-school shipment in yet. “Come back in, like, August?” The girl behind the counter said. “You know, when everyone is like shopping for back-to-school stuff?”

“But, you see,” I wanted to tell the clueless sales girl, “that’s exactly when I go on vay-cay-shun!”

Some people handle back-to-school planning differently. To stay ahead of the crowd and get a leg up on the latest fall trends, my friend Sloane did some clothes shopping for herself on one of the muggiest days of the summer. “I bought leather leggings,” she confided as we watched our kids splash in the town pool a few weeks ago.

“In August.” I countered.

“Yeah. It was like 94 degrees out.”

“You so needed those.”

“I did. And the cute booties that go with them. Now I’m all set for fall.”

Sloane is going to be styling’ in her black leather leggings with coordinating booties and I still cannot locate 5 inch Fiskars scissors to satisfy the particular demands of a second grade school supply list.

But the worst is behind me now. The kids are successfully off to school — with or without scissors — and the after-school activities have been lined up for the most part, with coordinating carpools in the works.

And now that it’s underway, I remember how much I love September. New books, new clothes, a hint of chill in the air. The promise of something; a fresh start. A few hyper moments each morning are worth it. Because once the kids are out of the house and off to school, I can breathe in that clear fall scent in relative peace, and look forward to the season ahead.

Whatever it may bring.

With or without leather leggings of my own.

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