With cooler breezes starting to loosen the stifling grip of summer’s “dog days,” I recall the feeling as a student of my spirits likewise stirring with the potential for new adventures. In my youth, entering the next grade every fall felt momentous, prompting so many questions: What would my classes be like? Would I make any new friends? Would I click with my teachers? Would I be able to keep up with all my assignments and tests? Would I enjoy my extracurricular activities?
Every September, I loved having the chance to make a fresh start. That manifested in part through one of my favorite activities: shopping for school supplies. Regardless of what the coming year might bring, I could take comfort in my newly acquired panoply of colorful folders, notebooks, pens/pencils, and Trapper Keeper that accompanied me on my journey. September has always seemed a much more natural beginning to the year than January, a notion reinforced by the fact that the Jewish New Year usually starts in September also.
With the threat of COVID-19 still looming large, this autumn will be so utterly disorienting for everyone. Parents, teachers, and school administrators are being forced to make impossible choices, all of which carry significant risks. Students are grappling with a whole new set of anxieties they wouldn’t even conceive of in a typical year. There are always opportunities for positive experiences to emerge, but the road ahead is undoubtedly paved with obstacles.
Students, parents, teachers, and school administrators need a special dose of luck and love right now — and most of us know someone who falls into one of those categories. This is the perfect time to send a letter, card, or note with wishes for a healthy, safe, and productive year ahead. Remind the recipient to watch for the pleasant surprises and simple joys as well as the challenges, and let them know you’ll be in their corner.
And if you end up sending something in the mail, consider adding a touch of whimsy with stickers; they’re not just for kids. Even though I’ve been an adult for a good many years now, my mom and one of my best friends from high school still adorn the envelopes of my birthday and holiday cards with eye-catching stickers that never fail to delight. In these heavy days, it’s important not to lose our sense of play and optimism.
Among my favorite sticker sets to pull from when sending autumnal notes is the “Elegant Nature” Leaf Embellishments ensemble from Martha Stewart Crafts (top) — one of many brands available from the wondrous Paper Source emporium at the time I shopped there. In a happy accident, I stumbled across its Cobble Hill location while in Brooklyn in 2016. Paper Source’s selection of stationery is a sight to behold, its greeting cards are cute and perky, and it’s got plenty of stickers too. Several cards on its website are good picks for the return to school, including “Lucky Symbols” (left) and “Socially-Distanced Hug.”
The whole world will be venturing into uncharted territory this fall, but that will be especially true of school communities. The lessons we all learn in the coming months will extend far beyond anyone’s class curriculum.