I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I had a glorious youth, running wild with my sisters, cousins, and friends at my grandfather’s rambling cottage on Lake Muskoka, Ontario, Canada. Barefoot and tan and pretty much feral, I can still recall the taste of the tart hand-plucked raspberries that grew on long arching canes over the rotting boardwalk in our swamp, and of the Silver Queen and Bread and Butter corn my mother bought by the dozen in brown paper sacks from a local farmer. We team shucked that corn before drenching it in unadulterated Canadian butter and salt. (My family were unapologetic stick of butter rollers.) Schweppe’s tonics and Molson Stock Ale kept us hydrated. Good times, indeed.
August brought the end of summer, and when the leaves on the birch trees at the water’s edge shivered and started to turn it meant that it was time to close the cottage and head south again. I laugh when I imagine the looks on the faces of the US Customs agents who welcomed us back across the Peace Bridge into the States, our Country Squire station wagon crammed with sunburned kids and happy exhausted dogs, suitcases held together by jump ropes, the floating life rafts and squirt guns we bought with our own spending money and by God refused to surrender to anyone, and our pinecone and shiny mica rock collections. Back in those halcyon days the agents just waved us through. I don’t even think our dad slowed down for the gate.
And then it was up to our mom to whip us back into civilized shape, herding us girls into the local beauty boutique for savagely short haircuts with crooked bangs, buying us that one special new outfit from the Sears catalog that we then wore to the first day of school, proud as peacocks, and stuffing our calloused heels and toes back into the one size too big saddle shoes that we would eventually grow into during the school year, our newly bound feet protesting with every step.
Despite our protests and rebellion, there was something magical about September. It felt like a fresh start, a do-over, certainly more of a fresh start than the holiday we celebrated on January 1st. September returned us to school and to classes, offered us the possibility of meeting and making new friends, of growing up just a little bit more and joining interesting groups, challenging sports teams, and special interest clubs. Once you overcame the hurdle of that crippling first day anxiety, it was fun.
So here we stand in September of 2021, and I wonder: if this is my fresh start, what do I want to do with it? I know Book 2 of my NOLA Mystery series needs to be finished, and there are a couple of short story ideas noodling around in my head, but I’m not allowed to start drafting them until the novel manuscript is complete because “after work comes play.” (That’s a Family Rule.) I’ve put my house up for sale and I’ve decided to downsize to a condo because I want to spend my time (and let’s be honest, my increasingly limited energy and focus) more on my writing than on yardwork and spreading mulch. And, with the ongoing COVID-19 vaccinations, it seems like the world is re-opening a bit, so maybe, just maybe it’s time to plan some fresh road trip adventures.
How do you feel about starting fresh in September? Share your thoughts and plans.