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October 24th, 2014

B.T.S.

I won’t keep you in suspense. The letters ‘BTS’ are a bit of old retail jargon for the selling season of ‘back to school.’ I know this, as I am an old retail jargon person. I don’t know if the letters BTS are still used in that industry to abbreviate the words back to school, but I think that they probably are. Why would they not be?

In retail, as in many other professions, words and titles of people and things, (CEO, CFO, etc.) have been abbreviated for a very long time now. It makes one wonder why abbreviation is such a long word in the first place. Long B-4 (Get it? Of course you do.) facebook, texting, and tweeting, my generation was using terms like BTS. As a reformed and recovering retail manager, I can tell you that that profession coined many such terms, including the shortened version of health and beauty aids; HBA. I can’t imagine why we did those things. It’s not much harder to say the words health and beauty than it is to mouth HBA, at least I don’t think it is.

The least effective, and fairly stupid such abbreviation that I can remember all these years later was actually no abbreviation at all. Christmas merchandise, in retail, was once termed ‘red and green.’ Now think about that. ‘Red and green’ is three syllables. ‘Christmas’ is two syllables. Not all of us in retail were geniuses back then.

Similarly, or if not similarly, at least also, my wife works for a big, international shipping company, (the brown one, with initials for a name) and comes home from work each night speaking in alphabet soup and acronyms, not in real words. The sweet nothings that she whispers into my ear each night, really are nothings, at least nothing that I can understand. I’m not sure why I told you all of that, other than I felt like discussing back to school, which I will now do. I do get off on a rabbit trail now and again.

For most families, at least for those families containing small children, the vacation is over… at least for the kids and the teachers. Fall is in the air. Sweatshirt-and-sneaker weather is on its way, or, perhaps, is already here. These days, many, if not most families, have found it necessary for both parents to have jobs outside of the home. For many other families there is only one parent in the home, and that parent works outside of the home. Some other parents get to stay at home. For all of those moms and/or dads, in those very diverse families, it is now the case that they have recently begun dropping their little angel or angels off at that big brick building, or at the stop for that big yellow bus, and, with tears in their eyes, (the mom’s and dad’s eyes, not the kids’) watching those precious cherubs plop out of the car and waddle up to the door of that building or long yellow vehicle. (I do love children. Please forgive my choices of verbs, sometimes.)

I know those old parental feelings well, and have experienced the tears, especially the very first day of school each year, and more especially when the kids are very young students AND it is the first day of school. All five of my kids have withstood the momentary torment of standing in front of our fireplace on that first day, backpacks in hand, while Mom and I took their picture, for posterity, I guess, if posterity happened to be paying attention. I have no idea where any of those pictures are right now. They never made it to facebook, but it might be worth our getting them on there, just to be held as blackmail for future favors from those now-grown former juveniles of ours.

Each new year means that your children are entering a new grade, and that grade brings them one year closer to graduation, college, marriage, and lots of other terrifying things that enter your mind as you take them to the school or watch them board that big, ugly, yellow bus. I know those parental feelings for another reason, in that soon my wife and I will be driving the last of our five children to a far away college. (‘Last times’ are often even more scary than ‘first times,’ I am coming to realize.) That event will be no picnic for us, but will likely be party time for her. Having already processed four children out of high school and into college, I know that things are not, they are not, and we are not the same when they find their way home, for good, or even for a semester break. They are changed, and we are changed, at least a bit. It is no longer a relationship between an adult and a child. It is a relationship between an adult and another adult, assuming that we parents can act like adults while they visit. Stranger changes have probably taken place in our world, but only probably.

Still, and I know this to be true, what you younger parents need most to do at this time of year is to daily, cheerfully and bravely, dress your little bundle of joy, slap that peanut butter sandwich, juice box and apple into his lunch box, and put his backpack back on his back. Then, off you go to the school or the bus stop. The dirty little secret is that for some of you, what happens next is that you can head back home, to a quiet house that will not be disturbed or dirtied until your child arrives home in the afternoon. For you, there will be time on the couch today, to continue reading that wonderful book, as the sunshine beams through the window, warming both you and that big mug of mid-morning coffee. You will experience a bit of guilty pleasure in this, it is true. But don’t feel too guilty. In fact, enjoy it while you can. BTS doesn’t last forever. Before you know it your vacation will be over, and the school will gladly give the cherub back to you.

 

George’s World,” a new 740 page collection of George’s columns from The World, is available at xlibris.com, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and your favorite bookstore. “The Smoke And Mirrors Effect,” George’s first novel, can be seen at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Happy Reading!

 

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