Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back to School Time of Year

It's Friday tomorrow. With that comes much rejoicing from not only me but anyone else who has the fortune to work a schedule that has the traditional reward of weekends.

I'm sure the kids who have started back at school are rejoicing too. It's that time of year. I go in Target on the way home from work and there are always harried mothers carrying their well-worn lists of school supplies. Around the specially stocked area that contains just school supplies, there's always one parent trying to reason with a kid who thinks a $20 Trapper Keeper is a necessity while the parent picks up the cheaper, regular notebook.

From my observer's point of view, it's become a tradition to watch the normal back-to-school preparation from a purely unbiased point of view.

I'm just glad it's not me. I remember the last days of summer. We'd get to buy some items for our wardrobe and for me, Miss. Lack-of-Self-Confidence Monkeypants, it would become an agonizing struggle to try to find something I liked that looked nice on me but wouldn't stand out to those who would pick on me.

Well, this is after we moved to the U.S. of course. In England, it was different. We wore uniforms. That made it easier. The hardest part was getting school shoes.

But here in the U.S., there wasn’t much guidance. My first day of school in the U.S. was probably one of my biggest fashion disasters. I wore a very bright yellow blazer over the top of a very bright yellow Garfield shirt. I wore jeans that nowadays would be extremely unfashionable. And I wore tennis shoes that made my feet feel like Bigfoots.

Ironically, I did not even like Garfield that much. I would have preferred a Mickey Mouse t-shirt. When you grow up in England and almost everything you know about America is what you see on TV, you tend to think that everyone wears Mickey Mouse t-shirts.

Also, yellow still looks rather horrible on me, especially bright yellow. I was in an awful, gawky stage of my development. In short, I probably looked like Big Bird. The only redeeming quality was that people thought I was interesting because I was from England. I think maybe they were willing to look past my fashion disasters.

Besides, back then, a lot of kids had Spuds McKenzie shirts on. I had no idea who Spuds McKenzie was. I'm still not entirely sure. There were also a lot of Hobie shirts. One boy, a very large boy, had a Hobie shirt that said, "Fat Pig," or something like that. I called him Fat Pig forever onwards. Hey, he asked for it. He was mean. He was also large.

The point of this story is that it was never easy to go back to school after summer. I'm sure it still isn't. Once you get back into a routine, once you establish your circle of friends, your activities and your schedule, things get easier.

Yet it's still hard this time of year. The butterflies were always fluttering by now for me as I'm sure they're fluttering for many a returnee. I'd hope, just as I'm sure that they do, that this would be a good year. For me, I wanted to not necessarily be popular but to not be unpopular. I wanted boys to like me. I wanted teachers to like me.

Sometimes, they did. Most often, I fell in the middle of the pack. Yet being in the middle was better than being on the bottom, I suppose.

Yet, there were things I liked about school. I enjoyed learning when the subject interested me. I enjoyed after school activities. I enjoyed the small pleasures such as substitute teachers that let you watch a movie instead of working, of having a study hall with no homework so I could read my book instead. I enjoyed getting an A on a paper and feeling that warm glow of satisfaction. I enjoyed winter mornings, laying in bed, watching the snow fall heavily and knowing that it was definitely going to be a snow day.

In some ways, as nice as it is to be a grown-up, there are some times when I miss the simplicity of the 'back to school' days where there was always a routine. I miss buying pencils and pens, new notebooks and erasers. I still do that sometimes, particularly when everything is on clearance but its' not the same. I don’t have a locker to store them in and nowadays, it's really easier to type than write.

Of course, if I went back to visit my school-aged self, I'd probably poke the grown-up version in the eyeball with one of my newly sharpened pencils just for suggesting that being in school wasn't so bad. It's always greener on the other side of the fence, I suppose.

Times have changed. I don't think kids really even use pencils any more, do they? For us, pencils were a staple. Every room had a sharpener and you used to sometimes have to line up to use it. I found one of those sharpeners under my sink the other day while I was cleaning. It must have belonged to the lady who sold me my house. I'm keeping it. I love pencils and sharpening them is another small pleasure in life. It's a simple, quick way to achieve the result you want. It sounds mental, I suppose. I get the same satisfaction in sharpening a pencil as I do when I take a letter to the post office. It's something that I've done. Something I've accomplished. It might be small but it's enough to give me a feeling on contentment.

Still, when I really think about it, I wouldn't really want to go back in time to where I had to go back to school. It might seem easier back then but it always seems like than in hind sight. Nowadays, I've traded playground politics and social circles for office politics and…social circles.

So maybe things aren't really that different. I have a desk on which to work, much as in school. I have coworkers who I consider friends. Other coworkers aren't friends and run in a different circle. I work all day and then I get to go home. I get a lunch hour. We get two 15 minute breaks we can use for 'recess'.

I even have a newly sharpened bouquet of pencils on my desk.

We're even having a field trip in September to play paintball.

Well, I suppose at least I won't need a note for my mother for that. Things have changed….a little.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

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