Back to school is not pristine exercise books, wickedly sharp pencils, juicy ink in new pens, or even squeaky new shoes. Back to school is a door.
I walk the boy to school, watch him run into the classroom without a backward glance, and I walk home, as so many times before.
Always, the part I remember is standing in front of my own front door, key in hand. Beyond the door is a strange stillness. Behind it stretch seemingly endless hours of productivity – hours in which I can achieve so much, hours of opportunity…
I’d like to stay on that threshold, imagining everything that might be beyond the door, dreaming of what could be. Once the door is opened, reality rushes through it and there is laundry and a desk piled high with books and paper and barely legible notes on post-its and telephone marketing to ignore and a sudden compulsion to tidy and an inability to focus on one thing at a time and a mountain of tomatoes which really should be used before they rot and did I send that email?
Dreaming is easy when you stand outside the door. As you open it and step through, the challenge is to carry the dreams and aspirations with you, and do the things you need to do to make them happen, regardless of all the other things clamouring for your attention.
Because Benjamin Franklin was wrong; it’s not death and taxes which are the only certainties in this life – it’s laundry and distractions. And it’s not a wildly different vision of the future that’s behind that door; it’s my home and my life. If I’m going to do new things, they have to be done here and now. And now we’re back to school, there’s no excuse.