The great September transition

IMG_2374I always loved going back to school as a kid. When July turned into August, the school supplies were moved to their own hectic corner at Target stores and the September issue of Teen magazine filled with fall fashion arrived in my mailbox. I started counting down the days until I could walk down my school’s halls. I thought about what I aspired to do each year. I’d be super organized and a straight-A student. I’d become more popular or athletic. I’d be the kind of person who is kind to everyone and wears the coolest clothes from Kohl’s.

That September glow has never disappeared from my life. My heart swooned a couple of Septembers ago when Nick told me he’s a September person. He didn’t have to explain. I knew exactly what he meant because I’m a September person, too.

That’s not to say I don’t love summer. I love the long hours of sunshine and the effortless feeling of leaving the house in flip-flops for a coffee run or to walk along the canal. I love the array of colors as flowers bloom randomly on lawns or neatly in window boxes. I love fires on the beach with my friends and lingering after sunset. I love ordering a whole bottle of chilled rosé and sipping with my girls on a patio. I love how my parents’ living space doubles as the deck, patio, and pool area become an extension of the house.

Summer is what we train for. We show off our winter’s work at the gym. Without guilt, we push aside books and turn off TVs. That can wait until October when it’s dark, but right now it’s summer and we must enjoy it.

But in the fall, we return to that structure and the activities that make us stronger, fitter, more educated for next summer. I crave the sense of accomplishment I get each time I finish a workout or a book.

September is transition month when we get to make choices. We can choose how to reinvent ourselves for the school year. We can choose what we want to focus on during the cold months. We even get to  choose whether to get a jump on fall with chunky-knit everything and pumpkin-spice everything. We can also choose to enjoy every second of the diminishing daylight of summer before fully surrendering to closed-toe shoes, crunchy leaves, and cozy blankets by the fireplace.

I’ll do both. I’ll take my paddleboard out to the lake and wear my summer dresses a couple more times, but I’ve also got a pot of chili on the stove and football on the TV.

 

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The French way

Next weekend I’m going to an outdoor wedding. It’s at a park, and I’ll be required to walk up hill to get to the ceremony site. It should be warm with no rain, according to the 10-day forecast. I didn’t have appropriate shoes for such conditions, so I set out yesterday to find pretty sandals. It was tricky since the fall platforms and chunky-healed boots are out in stores. I wandered through the rows of summer shoes – mostly ballet flats, tall, casual wedges and spike heels – but none were right.

So I made my way to the clearance rack of sandals in the back. It was a “Three Bears” experience for me: Too casual, too blinged out, too high to walk in. Finally I found some brown sandals. Not too high, not flat either. I can walk in them. They weren’t great quality, but they’ll be fine for the day. I handed over my debit card and left feeling, “meh” about my purchase. On to the next errand on my list.

I couldn’t help but think about an article I read recently about French vs. American shopping habits. The article said American women tend to go for quantity over quality. If you’re like me, each fall we come home with bag after bag of the latest fashions. We just wear the pieces as-is, rather than tailoring them for a complementary fit. The following September, we gather up the machine-washable sweaters, uncomfortable boots and ill-fitting pants for charity and start the process anew.

The French, by contrast, select high-quality, stylish pieces that are right for their body types. Then add accessories to bring out their own personality. As a result, they look polished, whereas we look like we piled on all the season’s trends at once.

So I’m trying to keep that in mind as I pick up a few things for the colder months. Currently on my list is a great-looking pair of jeans that I can wear to work and a gauzy scarf that I can wear with things I already own. And that’s it. I resolve to take my time finding the right things, and not to coming home with bags of polyester shirts and shoes I won’t want to wear.