I have a hunch that fall will arrive early this year. Maybe it’s the angle of sunlight on the fading black-eyed Susans in our perennial garden, or the crunch of acorns under my tires when I cycle around the neighborhood.
Whatever triggers it, I can’t ignore the annual temptation to shop for back-to-school supplies — even though there hasn’t been a student in our home for several years.
Our only child did exactly what most parents hope their children will do: He grew up, earned a college degree, and left home to start his career after graduation.
Watching the younger moms in my neighborhood now — the ones buying new Crayolas and lunch kits — I recall the exhilarating sense of novelty I’d feel when my boy started school each fall.
After driving the morning carpool, I’d return home to meet my writing deadlines or enjoy a few hours by myself. In those days, the calendar on our kitchen wall was a rotating list of music lessons, Mother’s Club meetings, band concerts, and school events. In retrospect, I still don’t know how I juggled it all — yet I enjoyed it, too.
Coloring the empty nest blues
Determined not to become a long-distance helicopter mom, I knew I’d have to find ways to redirect my maternal energy during the first year of empty nesting. I needed to explore something different — something just for me. Was it time for a puppy or a brand-new hobby?
The late-summer ritual of buying school supplies provided a clue.
A week before his first year of college, my son and I headed for the nearest office supply store. While he made a beeline for the computer department, I was magically drawn to a colorful display of calligraphy pens, markers, stamps, and drawing pads.
And that’s when my inner artist finally reasserted herself. I had no idea what she planned to do with all the watercolor pencils and glitter glue she tossed in our shopping cart, but she refused to leave the store without them.
I think painter Georgia O’ Keeffe explained it best when she said: “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way — things I had no words for.” Which was exactly how I felt as a parent whose role had suddenly changed.
A month later, I shopped for more supplies at a local craft store, where I also discovered several magazines featuring how-to articles on mixed-media collage and art journaling. I couldn’t learn fast enough. While my son studied (and partied) through his freshman year at college, I happily painted, stamped, and pasted a whole new path of my own.
Rediscover your inner artist
It’s never too late to make creative discoveries, after all.
No matter how old you are, the ring of school bells might be your call to start a new craft or reignite a dormant artistic passion. And it doesn’t have to be a major project requiring expensive tools or supplies.
For starters, you might enroll in a scrapbooking class, learn to knit, or even explore the therapeutic benefits of grown-up coloring books. Let your imagination guide you. Visit your nearest craft store for inspiration — and don’t overlook the school supplies section at your local drugstores.
Anticipating another creative season this fall, I’ve already started looking at art supplies for my two-year-old grandson. It’s the perfect time for Grandma to break open the Play-Doh and fingerpaints again.
Cindy La Ferle is a nationally published lifestyle columnist and author in Royal Oak. Visit her “Life Lines” blog at laferle.com.