We are packing. Each of us has a box with our name on it. Perhaps it is the box of second, fourth, sixth or eighth grade. Into that we place the carefully wrapped, sealed boxes of this school year’s language arts and science and social studies. Don’t forget the box of PE and art and band and music and sports. The box of recess and lunch, too. The box of meetings and conferences; conviviality, joy, consternation, frustration and even heartache – but mostly, I’d like to think, of triumph and fulfillment.

In June, the schoolhouse begins to fill with these real and imagined boxes that come in all sizes. They are the vessels for all we have experienced, learned, made, sung, acted, danced, run and cherished between September and June, and they begin to pile up in anticipation of the Move to Next Year.

There are book boxes and china boxes and wardrobes – small boxes for a few heavy items, and bubble-wrap and tissue paper for the breakables; wardrobes for all those costumes put to use every day, plus the extra-special costume day we call Halloween. Sometimes they are disguises, sometimes just character or scene changes. Everything we need for the next place is being prepared for loading.

We are only moving around the corner to a new neighborhood: September 2023, and a new school year. It’s not far; nonetheless, all these boxes must be carried home, or loaded onto the school bus. Some go into storage, and some get immediately reopened in a new location – at your house, at day camp, sleepover camp, Grandma’s house, treehouses, boats and minivans on a family vacation.

Perhaps new things will be added in July and August? Good. Just be sure to bring the additions with you back to school in September. New room? Same room? New teacher? Same teacher? It’ll be different for each of us. But there are always new costumes … and always new boxes to fill.

If this move is like all the prior ones you’ve experienced, September will mix new discoveries of old things, reunions with favorite toys and perhaps a few insurance claims for broken glassware that the movers packed inconsiderately or that fell off the truck. The unpacking script might go like this: Now where are those math skills I put in an easy-to-find place? I know I put the comma rules in here somewhere …  The French vocabulary was in a big box with “Français” across the top in big letters. Ou est-il? Uh-oh: The science box is leaking. I wonder what I packed in there. And the papiér maché mask and puppets I worked so long on in art class? Crumbled. No worries; time to make new ones. It’s the creative technique that’s the most precious cargo.

Our belongings are ourselves. We are what we pack and unpack. For a while in May it feels as if we are living in two houses or in two years at once; departing and arriving at the same time; to and from the same destination. Packing up the present schoolhouse is inextricably bound to our expectation of unpacking in the new one, next year’s, particularly since so much of what we have packed was chosen with the new one in mind. We may even find that some of the things we most cherished have lost their value over the summer, during the move, and we’re ready for entirely new, unanticipated treasures. It’s one of the benefits of moving, of changing, of growing: finding that we can be new and old in knowledge at the same time.

We’re packing the house of friendships, too – which is much harder to box up. It goes on the truck last. It wants to stay unpacked until the last minute, but even this most sacred belonging needs a little time away from school to rejuvenate and grow. The new kids in this neighborhood might look familiar – even the same names as the old school – but I guarantee they’ll be different. We’re all going to be new kids by September – it’s one of the laws of summer.

You know the forwarding address. See you at the new place.

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