This time of year, when September is around the corner, I feel wistful and simultaneously excited, my belly filled with butterflies. It’s almost school time. Everywhere I look I see new backpacks and back-to-school clothes and school supplies. Don’t get me started on school supplies. I love them.
The pens, the pencils, notebooks. I would give just about anything to have my Trapper Keeper from the 4th grade. It was the most beautiful thing in the world. Imagine a 1970s van with an airbrushed unicorn/Pegasus flying through the clouds. Now imagine that image on a Trapper Keeper instead of a van. I loved it so much that I just spent 30 minutes trying to find my old Trapper Keeper on eBay.
I loved all of the stuff associated with school, but most of all I loved the homework. And even more than the dioramas and the popsicle stick models I loved one assignment. An assignment we had nearly every year.
The Year 2000.
The assignment was simple — imagine the year 2000 and write about it, draw it or both.
My year 2000 always looked the same. There were flying cars and houses that floated in the sky. We all wore foil clothes and rocket shoes. We coexisted peacefully with the Martians and Vulcans in a utopian society with no litter and no pollution. It was always a perfectly-Zahra sort of future — one filled with technology and green, peaceful ideals. It was a world I hoped to live in one day, and certainly the year 2000 was so far off that we would achieve all these things by then.
I loved this assignment because there was something about envisioning a future I wanted to see that gave me hope and carried me through the dark times. And there were many dark times. Over the years, the year 2000 became a place I escaped to when I couldn’t stand being where I was. I built it up, adding layers and layers to this imaginary world of mine.
And then one day it was just around the corner. I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life, and there was all this Y2k business. Apparently the world was coming to an end, or at least my bank account would be wiped out at the stroke of midnight.
That New Years Eve I stayed home, bundled up in a blanket with a pot of coffee, and watched the year turn in Sydney, Hong Kong, London. I didn’t make it up for New York.
The next morning I woke up. The world was still spinning, the banks were still standing, the government had not fallen. The grass was covered with frost, confetti, broken glass and cigarette butts. The year 2000 was here, and it was nothing like I imagined. I had no rocket shoes and my car still drove on the ground. My closet was devoid of space age fabrics, and first contact had not yet happened. But it was another morning and I was still here. That part of my childhood imaginings came true.
The world was still and silent as I walked outside in my robe, a mug of black coffee warming my hands, my bare feet scraping across the icy cement, and watched the squirrels search for food on the frozen ground.