My Life on the Post Road: School Daze

Perhaps it’s because I’m an autumn baby that I hate the heat and have always, with a preternatural glee, looked forward to the chill in the air and the advent of the school year that ushers it in.

As a kid, it meant shopping trips with my mother for new school clothes that matched the hues of the changing foliage and the Indian corn that she hung on our door. Great deals of thought went into what to wear that first day. I remember lots of warm plaid and cozy turtlenecks, and one particular pair of rust-toned suede platform shoes that I had to beg dispensation to wear because my mom thought them too ‘mature’.

And, oh, the school supplies! The promise of those wide-open fields of symmetrically lined sheets of notebook and loose-leaf paper on which we, way back when, could practice cursive script. I loved the elegance of the simplest blue-capped Bic pens, that anticipation of rivers of sapphire (also my birthstone) ink, which I relish to this day. Some classmates chewed or twisted those caps into tween-age angst-filled shapes. Not I. Mine remained pristine until the last vestiges of navy fluid remained in that narrow opaque polypropylene tube encased in its polystyrene barrel.

I reveled in color-coordinated notebooks, binders, folders, and tabs. And revered pristine pink chunky slant-edged virgin erasers and their ability to eliminate the inevitable errors I made with the school-bus-yellow #2 pencils, their blunt tips awaiting meticulous sharpening with my color-coordinated sharpener.

As an adult, I’d visit school supply stores as the academic year dawned just to soak in the atmosphere and amass writing supplies (I write everything longhand first) that I surely didn’t need. As a mother, my pulse raced as I watched that dad in the Staples commercial commandeering his shopping cart down the aisle, sullen children in tow, humming It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year ... My children delighted in the experience as much as his did, but boy was their mommy happy.

And last year I got to buy my own school supplies again, and in England no less. Their items were just different enough from ours to raise my adrenaline level and nostalgia quotient that much more every time I went to WH Smith or Poundland for index cards and highlighters.

This year I wandered around Staples with no real purpose and felt sad not to have any good justification for stocking up. I already have a small stockpile of stationery at home, and with an impending move, I am trying to winnow, not amass, inventory. I finally found some joy and satisfaction when I spotted cool Nike snack coolers at Marshall’s Shoe Shop.  I texted my ex-husband’s wife (we still haven’t figured out a more elegant moniker for each other) to ask if her son (I call him my ‘bonus son,’ and he calls me his ‘bonus mom’) had yet replaced the one he’d used last year in fourth grade.  “No,” she said, “and it’s ratty – he could definitely use a new one!”  “I’m on it,” I replied, as delighted as 007 with a new mission. 

I bought not one, but two, blue ones (KHS colors are blue and white) – you never know – he might lose one or need one for sports! And drove them over right away, delighted to be able to once again to be able to indulge in the ritual of back-to-school-supply procurement. I still might wander over to Staples again this week; I only have a few dozen boxed blue Bics left, and, well, you never know...

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