Editor's note: We ran this last year just before school. We're running it again because we wonder if it might have gotten lost in the Irene shuffle, and also because we love it. We hope you do too.
To me there is nothing that symbolizes a year of possibilities and promises more than a brand new box of Crayola crayons. I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t have a complete and visceral response to the site of these little waxy columns, standing at attention in their crisp paper sleeves, topped with a softly blunted cap that has been buffed to an inspection worthy sheen.
The foot soldiers of creativity, they stand at attention waiting to be called into action. Burnt sienna, we need you! Make way for magenta, go for it indigo, journey they will onto pages yet to be discovered, pictures not yet imagined, projects still to be dressed, endless possibilities.
I would argue that Julius Caesar had it wrong when he proclaimed January 1st as the day to begin anew. Sure, astrologically it may make some sense, but if you live in the US and your days number more than 5 years you are well aware of a force more powerful than the pull of the moon that comes toward the end of August. More than the ball dropping in Time Square or the pop of champagne, more than trying to remember the words to Auld Lang Syne, the time to ring in the New Year is undoubtedly the first day of school. It is this earthly event that so clearly marks the hope of a new beginning, calling on us to reflect on the year gone by and resolving to make this one better.
Yes! This is the year.
We will learn a new word every morning and use it in a sentence at dinner.
We will do our own laundry or go to school naked, see if I care.
We will floss, file and find things with ease.
We will turn off lights, put things back, hang up our coats and smile even when feeling blue.
Perfection will be ours.
Then as the sling shot of the pending school year is being pulled back for launch we add to our new shoes and No. 2 pencils the weight of these lofty goals. The countdown begins, aim carefully and release the best of intentions flying into the face of futility.
I don’t think science has yet discovered a means to measure the time between resolutions being made and the reckless abandonment of such thoughts. It is perhaps so short a moment that it might be un-recordable or depressing.
I hearken back to the motivational poster hanging in schools across the country, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you end up in the stars”. I have since replaced the words “You end up in the stars” with “You will end up seeing stars”, as I just hit my head on the microwave door someone neglected to close.
Perhaps, perfection only exists in the world of Crayolas and even there not for long. For each implement will in turn lose its sheen, little paper sleeves will be torn back for sharpening, some colors will become so short that it will get lost in the box. Battle weary and worn they will keep doing their jobs until summer calls them into a well-deserved retirement.
In a few days our children will be called out of retirement to head out the door into the hallways of uncertainty. Who knows what triumphs or troubles lay ahead? Friends will be lost and made; there will be grades to celebrate and many opportunities to commiserate, so far from flawless it is the fantastic collage of youth. And so I look at my dining room table strewn with folders of every color, notebooks, flash drives and three backpacks into which I slip a brand new pack of crayons, because everyone should celebrate New Year’s Day with the gift of possibilities and promise and the knowledge that perfection is nice to look if not very useful. May you and your family have a very Happy New Year!