On reading the beguiling descriptions of your favourite seasons in the comments on ‘Birthday Beastie‘, I was struck by the number of us who chose Autumn. I suppose it is hardly surprising that those of us in the Northern Hemisphere should have the coming season uppermost in our minds. One comment which really struck a chord in me was from Barbara in New Hampshire, who writes about Autumn as the true beginning of the year, as the mornings turn crisp and children go back to school. In the Judaic calendar it really is New Year, of course: one friend wished everyone a Happy New Year on Facebook today, to the extreme confusion of some of her Gentile friends! It’s the turn of the season and the start of the new academic year, though, which have always brought a sense of new beginnings to me.
For our family, this Autumn is very much the start of a new chapter in our lives. Our younger son began his school career last month, bringing to a close those adorable, infuriating, precious pre-school years. He runs into school in the mornings without a backward glance: it is only his parents who are sentimental about the change. And on Monday we took our elder son to his new school in Edinburgh, where he will be a fortnightly boarder. We have (obviously) thought a great deal about what is best for him and we have no doubts that we have chosen a school which will suit him very well (much better than his first) and which is a happy and stimulating home from home. Nonetheless, it was a wrench to come home without him and not to know whether he got to sleep all right that night and so on. Bath time was unusually quiet, with only one wriggly little boy in the bath! Anyway, the school have been in touch a couple of times to report, and he seems to be settling in very well and enjoying all the exciting activities on offer. He is a quiet wee thing with an inner strength, it seems, and we are very proud of him.
In relation to this, I should say that in my opinion J.K.Rowling deserves a medal for services to children, especially those going off to boarding school. When trying to envisage what boarding school would be like, my son was greatly inspired by the Harry Potter books. Being a sensible sort of chap he was under no illusions about his new school harbouring a chamber of secrets or running on owl post, but Hogwarts certainly made the whole idea of boarding seem more accessible. Even the discovery that he needs glasses, which initially he was rather dispirited about, became pleasurable once I reminded him that Harry wears glasses too. (Unfortunately the National Health Service in Britain has failed to pick up on the Harry Potter phenomenon and we were thus unable to find a round-rimmed pair, but oval is good enough.) By the time we came to packing his new uniform into an old trunk (just like Harry’s!) which I found in an attic, he was really quite excited about going off to school. If only we could have got there by Hogwarts Express, our book-and-steam-engine-loving son’s happiness would have been complete.
As parents, we feel very lucky that our boys are each embracing their new experiences with such sunny enthusiasm. It is an emotional time for us all and Mummy and Daddy have had a few wobbly moments ourselves. Of course, it is inevitable that the boys will each have them too from time to time, but their present excitement is catching. Driving into the grounds of not-Hogwarts on Monday with our elder son, I felt a sudden sense of anticipation and rightness. These are good beginnings. Happy new year.
See also: What are little boys made of?