Tuesday, August 15, 2006

U R 2 good 2 B 4-gotten

School started this week in Ascension Parish. Seeing so many little ones crossing the street hand-in-hand with their parents, ably assisted by the crossing guard, I'm reminded of the excitement I used to feel in my own childhood at the beginning of each school year.

I loved school more than anything in the early grades, and the start of a new school year was the best part. I especially loved school supplies.

There was someting about fresh tablets and sharpened No. 2 pencils that signified new beginnings. I might make mistakes later on, but no blemishes would go with me into my new classroom.

On the way to school that first day I'd stick my face into the bagful of school supplies and inhale the magnificent aroma of crayons. The only thing in there that smelled almost as wonderful as the crayons was the oil cloth. I shopped carefully each year to find the most beautifully patterned square of waterproof cloth available, even though it was destined to remain rolled up, rubberbanded, and stashed in my desk to await the occasional messy art project.

Scent wasn't the only attraction. Somewhere along the way I'd picked up the bad habit of biting my pencils. Each new yellow pencil soon became ugly, but there was something indescribably satisfying about the sound and feel of my eyeteeth crunching into wood. I'd also discovered that the elongated pink erasers were pleasingly chewy, but the big square art-gum erasers crumbled too easily. Then, of course, there was creamy white paste. I didn't eat it by the jarful the way a couple of my classmates did, but I tasted it often enough to understand why they did it.

Along with the excitement, the first day of school always brought a little uneasiness. Would my classroom be upstairs or down, and what if I couldn't find it? Which teacher would I get? Would she be nice or mean? Would there be some kids I already knew in my class? What if one of the books that was issued to me had been written in by the kid who'd had it the year before and the teacher thought I did it? Somehow, all those worrisome issues resolved themselves without trauma.

When my sister and I traveled back to our hometown a few years ago, we visited all of our old schools. It was summertime, so the schools were closed, but we stopped the car long enough at each place to see what we could see.

Our longest stop was at Phelps, the elementary school we'd both attended. I think it felt natural to both of us to be back there. We pointed things out to each other, noting, for example, the recessed area on the back of the building where we'd played the dreaded dodge ball games. We stood on the same stairs we'd climbed over and over as our legs grew from first-grade length to several inches longer. We smelled the schoolyard dust of hundreds of past recesses and imagined long lines of children, arms entwined, shouting out the commands of Red Rover.

Most of all, through our peaceful moments of reverie, we paid silent homage to old classmates and old teachers. They signed our autograph books way back in the 1950s, and they also wrote their names in our memories and our hearts.


  1. dftwnl
    Springfield MO. had the only TV station we could pick up in the hills where I grew up. In the 60's there was a neen show I believe called "Man on the Street" Do you remember it???

  2. I'm so glad I don't have to go back to school, I never looked forward to it after 5th grade. But I remember the smell of crayons and paste. I didn't chew my pencils-I chewed my nails. I liked getting back-to-school clothes too. That was the only good part about it for me!

  3. 4th Sister, I don't know if I actually remember "Man on the Street" or if it's just the power of your suggestion, but it sounds vaguely familiar. (Um...embarrassed to ask, but what's a "neen" show? Is that a typo or a TV genre I don't know about?;-))

    Janet, I liked the clothes, too, but not as much as the school supplies. Even today I'd rather spend money at Office Depot than at clothing stores. BTW, I chewed my nails, too. Drove my mama nuts.

  4. I love school/office supplies. Staples, OfficeMax, Office Depot are my complete and total weakness. I can spend 1/2 hour in the pen aisle choosing the perfect pen that will change my life. They have that ability, you know. LOL.

  5. Oh gosh, I'm a new book, clean page and sharpened pencil person too. Love the smells of rubber (oops erasers!!) and the thin, curly shavings of pencils. That first day you write your name in the very best handwriting and then later in yars, hoping you don't smudge the ink with your first fountain pen. Ah, so many memories, lovely reading yours Velvet.

  6. Oh my gosh, I loved reading this! I too loved school up until the fifth grade. I remember my crisp new (well, hand me down) dress, and my new pencils...I too liked to chew those pencils...e-gads, I think they were actually lead in the sixties. My most memorable fragrance was the ONE new pair of shoes I would get each school year. After my mother purchased them, I would set them next to my bed and sniff them in the morning, I just loved the smell of new shoes. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

  7. i think helen ment news or noon. the show came on at noon and they stood on the street and talked to people who passed by.i suppose you know by now that patsy ramsey has finally been cleared of her daughter death. i didn't like school. we never had money for supplies or the things we needed.

  8. javagirl, you're right about the power of the perfect pen. Once I find a good one, that's all I use...until I try another one that belongs to somebody else and fall in love all over again.

    Sandy, that first fountain pen caused me so much grief. They knew what they were doing when they made us use washable ink.

    Schremsgems, I forgot about the smell of new shoe leather! Ummm-mmmm!

    Patsy, "noon" makes sense, thanks. I'm sorry school wasn't a good experience for you. And, yes, I was excited to hear the latest news on the JonBenet Ramsey case. It's about time!

  9. Ah, the excitement. I used to love putting out my new school clothes the day before school started (ahem, all the way through college) and promising myself an organized school year. I still get weak in office supply stores, or the school supply aisl. And I and love purchasing new pens.

    And thanks for your support on my now-deleated post last night. Means a lot to me.

  10. Duly Inspired, I'm not surprised that you're a school/office supply junkie. Anybody who cares as much as you do about punctuation totally fits the profile! ;-)

    Oh, and about your post last night? You are MOST welcome.

  11. Boy, were you easily pleased... :)

  12. I have had a few parents say I made a difference in their child's life...not many...just a few. But
    if I can help one little one along the way...my job is not in vain.

    I hope someone has some good memories of me. My prayer.. "Help me, Lord, to always do my best to nuture each little lamb...never causing harm that will last a lifetime. Let me build each little spirit and never tear one down.

  13. TC, you're right, I'm easily pleased. Looking at it from a positive perspective, that always made me a cheap date.

    Sweet-Sister, I had some wonderful teachers who obviously felt the same way you do. I can also name a couple who tried--and failed--to fake it.


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