This is the first week of school for the University of Colorado, where I taught for 22 years as a tenured professor in the Philosophy Department. It's the first week of school for DePauw University, where I taught as a visiting professor for six blissful semesters over the course of the last five years. It's the first full week of the new school year at Boulder Valley Public Schools, where both of my boys were educated from kindergarten to high school graduation. My two-and-a-half-year old granddaughter, Kataleya, had her first day at Sunflower Preschool yesterday (and our feverishly undertaken potty training held up under the stress!).
But it's not the first week of school for me.
Instead I've spent the week savoring every minute of a visit from a high school friend from New Jersey - actually, a friend from first grade on. In third grade, when I acquired the inevitable cereal-company-inspired nickname of General Mills, I founded an army to chase the boys at recess. Kim was the army's only other member, my reluctant but obliging private. For the last decade or so, we've enjoyed annual visits, me returning to New Jersey to connect with her when I was there for various writing-related events, she flying to Colorado for time in the mountains. On this visit, we spent one day at the Denver Botanic Gardens, one day at the "Women of Abstract Expressionism" and "Rhythm and Roots" exhibits at the Denver Art Museum (both excellent), and one day, the best day, up in Rocky Mountain National Park. What could be more fun than that?
And yet . . . it feels strange not to be going back to school myself, to be playing while others are working, wandering past paintings and waterfalls while others are finalizing syllabi and welcoming students. Maybe I really truly am retired now?
No. My own "back-to-school" frenzy will be observed the week after Labor Day, which is actually when school should begin, the way it always did when I was growing up in New Jersey (and where it still does, I believe, on most of the East Coast). That will the week of Kataleya's official start to preschool. That will be the week I leap into productivity as a full-time writer.
I will work hard on my new chapter book series idea, my THIRD this year, rebounding energetically and enthusiastically from my publisher's rejection of ideas number one and number two. I will revise and expand several scholarly children's literature articles and ready at least one and preferably two to submit for publication. I will read up a storm as a member of the Children's Literature Association's Phoenix Award Committee, which gives an award for a children's book published 20 years ago that did not receive a major award in its year of original publication but deserves one now.
So I am definitely going back to school, or at least back to work, on the day after Labor Day. There is still time for me to buy myself some new school supplies! There is still time to put on a red plaid jumper! And to sharpen pencils, and organize notebooks, and make "new school year" goals. Summer is lasting a bit longer for me this year than for my friends and neighbors, but in two more weeks, I'll be ready for the best school year ever.