This weekend, I was in the local big box store, and sure enough the back to school supplies were out. Aisle after aisle of neon colored notebooks, every conceivable pen and pencil you could want and many you probably wouldn't want. Now seeing back to school supplies out in the store at this time of year is not surprising; it is mid-August, and the schools here in Virginia are already back in session, or will be in a week or two. What always surprises me is how neat and orderly back to school shopping has become. It's changed to take out some of the surprise and excitement. Is it a change for the better? I think that if I were a mom, I would think so. But I can't help remembering back to school shopping from many decades ago...
You wouldn't know what supplies the teacher required until the first day of school. I remember how nervous I would be that first morning back, clutching my book bag and my little purple Snow White pencil case. I'd write down in my memo pad every item the teacher wanted. Some teachers wanted you to have the black and white marble covered notebooks. Others insisted on only number 2 pencils and please have a pencil sharpener. And the list seemed to go on and on.
As soon as the last bell of the day rang, I'd race home and ask my mother for money. My sister and I would walk up to Grand Value, the local everything/variety store, and there we would fill our baskets with school supplies from our neat little lists. The school supply aisle smelled crisp and clean. Fresh construction paper, loose leaf, pens, crayons...the air seemed filled with the promise of exciting things to come and a fresh start.
I'd always stand and stare sadly at the packets of crayons. Oh, how I wanted the big box. You know the one. The one with 64 crayons and the pencil sharpener in the back. But we could only afford the 8 pack of crayons, or perhaps if I had any money leftover, maybe the 16 pack. One year I got the 24 pack and felt rich with all the shades of blue and turquoise green. They were my favorite crayons.
The store would be packed, and we'd stand on line for 20 minutes or more, then troop home with our new school supplies. Textbooks would be covered with brown paper bags from the grocery store, cut open and neatly folded with precise corners over the hard cover books.
Call me a nerd, but I was always excited by the start of the school year. I'd flip through my textbooks and look at the pictures. I'd dread the scary formulas in the mathematics book and read a few stories in the history book.
This week, when I walked into the store, there were racks of neatly photocopied lists of school supplies handily placed in racks right near the back-to-school-aisle. "Miss Jones' supply list for the fourth grade at ABC Elementary" and so forth. You picked up the photocopied list and simply checked off the items as you walked the aisles. Why, they even printed the list in the local newspaper. You could shop at the big box store or head over to the dollar store with your newspaper-printed list if you preferred. No mystery, no surprises.
It's a much more efficient system, I am sure, and it gives harried parents time to prepare and a bit of a breather. Still, I remember the ritual of shopping for school supplies vividly...no matter what the grade, no matter what the year, the ritual was always the same, and it held something of the magic of the new year in it.
Today's picture is Razzleberry cat. He decided to help me in the garden and posed under a dogwood tree for me to take his picture. I thought it was a nicer picture than trying to take a photo of loose leaf or something. Enjoy!