By Dawn Greenberg
When my kids were toddlers, I felt pure relief as summer came to an end–finally a bit of respite from tantrums, diapers and long, long days. My boys would soon fall back into the welcoming arms of their preschool teachers.
These days when September looms, I feel quite sad at the speed with which our summers fly by and wish we could have just…one…more….week….please!
I feel not a little anxious about what the new school year brings: the familiar knot in my belly worrying about different classmates and new routines to conquer. Particularly with kids who struggle a bit, my anxieties are multiplied but also eased by the support of other friends and parents and by the knowledge that our teachers are warm and welcoming–and ready for anything!
Luckily, we all soon fall back into our roles and routines (with the occasional backward glance at beach days, leisurely dinners on the deck and fireworks). I’ve always felt that our town is at its best during September/October: a slight coolness in the breeze, the leaves just beginning to turn, then an acceleration of activities like Community Day, fall festivals and Halloween. This is why we chose this time of year for the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival. Down in the hollow of St. Mary the Virgin’s lawn, you can imagine you’re in a quintessential New England town with yellow tips just starting to appear on trees on nearly hills. The morning of the CCBF, I’m at Bell school by 5 a.m., so excited and anxious for our 85+ authors to soon populate our big tent. Even more exciting is 10 a.m., when the eager readers pour in…and keep coming!
Our “little engine that could” book festival, has grown from a modest dream (maybe we’ll draw 1,000 kids!) to becoming the biggest children’s book festival in the metropolitan area, in only three years. It would be impossible to pull off without the year-round work of our core group of volunteers, plus hundreds more who magically appear on book festival day. Our sponsors are pivotal to helping us be the best we can be for the thousands of visitors who arrive. It’s a day for our community to shine!
We also knew that Chappaqua was a welcoming place for readers; after all, we are all about our good schools and teaching our kids about the wide world outside of our borders. What could be better than encouraging a love of books to remind us of our place in the universe and to expose kids to every corner of the globe? I’ve always known that an early love of reading puts you in good stead for life and it’s something I’m eager to encourage in every kid I meet. In interviewing Dr. Lyn McKay for this issue, I was thrilled to hear her amplification on the vital role of reading in kids’ academic and emotional development.
It has also been so uplifting and exciting to be involved in founding Chappaqua Cares with my partner Jessica Reinmann. Whether gathering food for the many food pantries with exploding need in our area, helping out a resident who finds herself in a painful situation or even gathering dolls to contribute to a parenting class for immigrant parents at Neighbor’s Link, we find our days to be intensely rewarding with a new challenge around every corner.
Our biggest production, building on the wonderful original Empty Bowls program begun in Chappaqua by Penny Vane, will be an amazing celebration in November called Empty Bowls Westchester (see Jessica’s article in this issue). We have high aims to provide funding not only for the Mount Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry but for many other pantries in our area. In fact, my amazing artistic neighbor Mindy Kombert and her friends in the Northern Westchester Artists’ Guild have worked tirelessly to help local folks find their inner artist to create gorgeous bowls to be given away at the event. So far we have created close to 100 bowls, with approximately 50 more needed–each a work of art and passion.
Whatever your fall brings–and I hope your expectations are high–I wish you an easy back-to-school transition with time still set aside to play…and read! We hope you’ll find some time to volunteer, too, and get involved in our wonderful, vibrant, giving community.
I’m very proud to call Chappaqua home.