Although the new year officially begins on January 1st, the days leading up to and immediately following Labor Day trigger a visceral reaction. It's the result of 20+ years of conditioning: September = School. School = new beginning. A Launch. Anxiety, expectation, uncertainty, the unfamiliar. Excitement, anticipation, reunion, exploration.
And as I pack my bag for work and review my neglected weekend homework, I think of the multiple launches I have experienced in the past 3 weeks. Each a new challenge with both anxiety and excitement; eliciting expectations and triggering emotions.
Launch date August 6th - after 4 years of dreaming and seemingly endless work, my first cookbook is published by Knopf, having been acquired long ago by Judith Jones, who understood the vision I had about connecting children and food in the kitchen. Sylvia's Table is a cookbook and more. It has 200+ recipes and 200+ photos and incorporates the lessons we have learned at The Sylvia Center. At its heart, it is a story about life disguised as a cookbook. I am lucky - all my passions converge in a story that happens around the table - around that moment where things get messy and you lose control. That's when the magic happens and moments become indelibly etched in the mind of a child and the memory of an adult. Those encounters result in delicious rewards - a tray of brownies, a pot of tomato sauce, a soup or a salad. In my household, it was the spaghetti strand that stuck to the ceiling for over 10 years until the kitchen was finally renovated.
Launch date August 28th - my 18 year old son goes to college. After shopping with 2 daughters, the preparations are amazingly uncomplicated. Sheets are basic beige (both sets). Toiletries are the bare essentials. Clothing fits into a moderately sized duffle. The towels are from the closet. There is zero decorating frenzy (photos, pictures, wall hangings/rug/curtains/candles - the endless minutia of essential need.) We arrive at Wesleyan, settle in and do a run to the local Bed, Bath & Beyond for a few more things. At TJ Maxx we find the essential key to happiness - a "throne" - a reclining and very comfy chair. It fits into the car and the dorm - a good omen. Whatever life will throw at him over the next 4 years, he has his captain's chair and will navigate it well. I expect to see him while I am doing late night chores around the house, and then realize he is at college. It is a wonderful feeling and I am envious. He is launched on a new path as are we, with an altered landscape at home.
Launch date 5774 - the mellow pace of the last 2 weeks in August when NY feels like a small town because there are so few people around comes to an end. The season begins again and the pressure is going to reassert itself instantly. And what is more, Rosh Hashanah follows almost immediately on Wednesday night. Instead of the secular and simple "Happy New Year," the greetings are more circumspect - wishes for peace top the list as the world once again debates justice, freedom and war; closely followed by salutations for good health, love and happiness. The sensation of a new season starting is thus amplified - the challenges ahead and the perspective on what is important reflect work, life and world values. It is an auspicious beginning to the new season/new year.
It is September in New York. Global warming will change the temperatures so it might not feel like Septembers past, but the feelings are indelibly etched in our actions and reaction. We respond by moving to the starting gate, set our sights high, and launch. Safe journey to us all.