I kinda get excited this time of year. It's not just knowing that dreadful, hot old summer will soon be on its way, but it's that back-to-school feeling that's in the air. Now, I haven't been back to school or had a child going back to school in a long time, but something about the season makes me want to stock up on notebook paper, paste, and a rarely-used-but-always-required protractor.
Lots of kids hated to see the summer come to an end, but I always looked forward to heading back to school, especially the getting-ready part. In the run-up to the big day - always the Tuesday after Labor Day - we had a long to-do list to get through. We'd pick out fabric at the cloth store for a few new dresses Mother would run up on her sewing machine, then we'd hit the shoe store for a pair of new school shoes and perhaps a new Sunday pair as well. A new raincoat was usually in the offing - something with a hood, because I don't recall having to fumble with an umbrella - since we walked to our elementary school just down the street.
After the clothes were taken care of, the fun really started. School supplies! I don't remember teachers handing out a preferred list of supplies like they do today. Common sense told us we'd need new writing tablets for younger kids and a cool 3-ring binder with plenty of notebook paper for the older ones, a stash of #2 Ticonderogas
(aka, pencils), a tube of paste (the kind that tasted good - oops, giving myself away, there), and a brand, spankin' new box of Crayolas (no off-brands, please). If our parents were in a good mood - in other words, if we were shopping with Daddy, we added in a pencil box or plastic pouch that fit into our binders, a box of reinforcements for our notebook paper, and perhaps a ruler.
Once the supplies were gathered, Daddy would set off to find the perfect container for our supplies, which was, of course, a fresh cigar box. I'm not sure where daddies got all these cigar boxes, but they always smelled heavenly (without the smoke!) and everything fit neatly inside. After that, we were ready to go.
The first day was a little anxious, as you checked the list to see which teacher you got and which of your friends would be joining you. But there was always that sense of a new beginning. You could start all over. This would be the year you would master cursive writing or learn all the states and capitals or conquer long division (which took me more than a year, I confess - yeah, I''m blaming you, Miss Abel). It was much more of a New Year's celebration than January 1.
From a mother's point of view, I remember Kate's back-to-school experience as being much the same. I confess her new school clothes weren't fashioned on my trusty Singer and her school shoes were usually some kind of sports shoe, not leather loafers or mary-janes. But, still, yeah. The binders, the notebook paper and tablets, and pencils were always such fun to gather. And there was still the excitement of which teacher she'd get and which of her buddies would be in her class, or which new friends she'd have the opportunity of making.
I realize that back-to-school loses much of it's charm the farther from elementary school one gets in the educational system, but amidst increasing anxieties of middle and high school were hopefulness and new challenges to be met. Plus, always new 3-ring binders and #2's.
No more school shoes or cigar boxes full of new pencils and crayons for me, alas. Still, maybe I could use a fresh pack of notebook paper and a set of 64 Crayolas.
Now, where can I find a King Edward cigar box?