Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Summer's End - Time for School

It's the start of a new school year.  Our grandchildren either started last week, or they start next week.  School clothes have been bought,  new uniforms purchased.  School supplies and new pencils.  A new box of crayons.  Lexi, who is in first grade has been absolutely thrilled to tell her mom that she has homework, and can they please sit down and do it right away?  I love the enthusiasm, the craving of knowledge, the joy of learning.  Both she and Matthew (who is in preschool) have lots of school friends they were excited to see after their summer vacation.  Now it's Skylee, 1, who is left home with Mom until the bigger kids get home in the afternoon.
Mia will start school next Monday but today she had a picnic to meet her new teacher.  Do you remember the excitement of a new year at school?  Checking the classroom lists to see what teacher you got.  Checking twice to see if your friends were in your class.  Disappointment if they weren't, but you made new friends so easily back then.  I remember the smell of the classrooms - paste definitely, but also the tempera paints, chalk, and floor cleaner.  For me, the scissors were never right because I am left handed.  The left handed scissors came too late in my case - I learned to use scissors with my right hand, and can't even imagine using my left to cut with scissors now.
Reading.  Was there ever anything that opened more doors than reading?  Imagination soared, libraries beckoned with their infinite supply of books and stories, and once a week the Bookmobile would come to the school and we were granted time to go into that rolling library and choose whatever books we wanted.  I always chose something about animals - sometimes dogs, but usually horses.  I loved horses. (Still do.) At recess we would pretend we were horses and run around the kickball field.  Tetherball and four square.  Do kids play those things anymore?  I haven't been on an elementary school ground since my own kids graudated many years ago.  But they are some of my fondest and best memories, along with the friends that, for the most part, I have no idea where they are now.  Becky Black, who was so tiny and so smart that she was able to figure out the word "Czecholslovakia."  Janet Ferguson who had severe allergies and always had a large box of Kleenex on her desk.  Donnie Lewis, who all of the girls had a crush on.  Chris Beck, ever the gentleman.  And Joe Rhodes - be still my 5th grade heart!
And the teachers!  One of my favorites was Mrs. Howk - first name Avanell.  Such an old fashioned name and it fascinated me.  In later years, my all-time favorite teacher was Mrs. Betty Anne Friedman in the 7th grade.  She was from Georgia and had a thick accent.  She was a fierce woman with short blonde hair, and when we were particularly stupid she would whip out a round foam pillow and pound her head against the wall with it.  I loved her, and it was obvious she loved all of us.  She actually came to my house and talked to my mother about running for class office.  Relentless woman, but what a force!
It was always exciting to go school shopping.  What to get?  What will everyone be wearing?  It's funny, I don't remember a lot of the clothes until about that famous 7th grade year when I got a mohair sweater and a madras skirt.  I couldn't wait to wear them.  Sadly, in Southern California there is no such thing as a fall day in September, so I would actually sweat and suffer through a 90 degree day in a mohair sweater, ignoring the sweat trickling down my back.  Patience has never been a strong suit.  Back in 1965-66 some of the "older" girls in 8th grade started wearing granny boots, and/or white go-go boots.  One girl even wore granny glasses as an accessory with her granny boots, long skirt and tiny-flowered Liberty print blouse.  Sooooo cooooool... I would watch them and take notes on how to be cool - not that it did me much good...
That's probably when life started to get a tiny bit complicated - in junior high.  But in elementary school, life was pretty simple.  You liked your teacher, and she liked you, and made comments like "Karen plays well with others" on your report card.  There was no difficult "math" - it was just "arithmetic."  I came home from school as a first grader and would read my books to my mom, thrilling to the tales of Dick and Jane.  Wishing they would move a little bit faster, but I was READING!
We made clay turkeys in Kindergarten for Thanksgiving, and of course I tripped and fell and broke mine before I could even get it home.  To make matters worse, one of the colorful toothpicks that made up it's tail stuck into my hand.  Oh.... THE.... HUMANITY!!  I still have that scar too.  We made the clay handprints for Mother's Day, which I also tripped and fell and broke on the way home.  *shaking head* Such a clumsy child, and it continues today...
We wrote stories and memorized poems.  We drew illustrations for both.  My dad helped me make an Indian teepee out of paper, which we then coated with sand to simulate hides.  So clever.  When my own kids were in school the projects became more complicated and YES - I was one of those mothers who helped a lot with projects, but not because I thought they couldn't do it.  Because I loved to do it so much.  One year - our crowning achievement - Rex and I made a mission out of sand mixed with white glue.  The glue made it sturdy.  I'd seen in done in a children's museum and couldn't wait to try it.  That thing was a labor of love, and my son and I had a wonderful time making it - although I admit I put in a lot more time than he did.  He was only 8, so there's only so much patience available at that age.  But I wasn't trying to fool anyone either.  The only drawback was getting it to school.  It weighed a literal ton.  But get it there we did and the class loved it.  Until some kid walked through it.  Oh well.  The joy was definitely in the journey.
So I guess whether you have school age kids of your own, or whether you're like me, hearing about school from the grandkiddies, what memories do the first days of school bring back for you?  Construction paper fall leaves decorating the bulletin board in the classroom?  Lunch pails and thermoses of milk?  Oh, and a Twinkie for dessert if you were really lucky.  (Those were mostly after my elementary years - my youngest brother got those.  My treats were usually cookies, always saved for last.) Dividing the class up and playing kickball?  Wearing shorts under your dress so you could play on the monkey bars without showing your underwear?  Saying the Pledge of Allegiance every morning before the school day started?

Happy school year to all.  I realize that for some it just won't happen, and that's sad.  Education is power.  Knowledge and constant learning are an eternal joy.  But you don't know that when you're 5 or 6.  You just know you love to learn as fast as you can.  You delight in your accomplishments and the encouragement of your family.  Whether parent or grandparent, take the time to encourage those little ones you are associated with.  Help them to love school, and love learning at whatever level they are.  Tell them how when you were in school no one had computers.  Heck, when I was at BYU I had an electric typewriter, and thought I was so lucky!  These little ones have no such memories, and it would boggle their little noggins.  These little ones are our future, so nurture them well.  They depend on us to show them the way.

PS - For those who are keeping track, I am taking Dad for his 2nd chemotherapy appointment tomorrow morning.  He is mostly doing well - in fact, he went in to work today.  Probably mostly because it's the day he and my brother go eat themselves sick at a buffet somewhere.  But at least he's feeling up to it!  Sadly, he has started to lose his hair, so we'll have to get used to that.  I wish I could tell you that I was going to shave my head in support, but no.  That won't happen.


  1. No, karen, please don't shave your head now that you are sporting such a stunning hairdo! You already demonstrate support for your dad in many other ways including updating your friends on his progress here on the blog. I wish him well as he continues his treatments.

    Mark my words: Mia will be President of the United States someday and I will be her campaign manager! I see it in her eyes. The girl's unstoppable!

    I loved this post of yours, karen. Your enthusiasm for the topic is infectious. It brought back many memories of my own earliest school days. Like you I am left handed and my teachers tried hard to change that. It didn't work. I "couldn't do anything right" as the old joke went. Like you I remember the smells of the classroom: the chalk, the thick white paste you scooped out of a gigantic jar, the glorious aroma of a new textbook which was better than "new car smell." How about the overpowering smell of freshly mimeographed handout sheets with the ink still damp? All the kids used to sniff that paper and get a cheap high from it. Remember rubber erasers? Every student had one. Most were pink but my dad worked for an office supply store and got me a huge rectangular green eraser which was my pride and joy. I purposely made mistakes just so I could use it. (LOL) It didn't take much to delight us back then, did it? I was just reading an article a couple days ago reminding us that the trappings of education that were so familiar to us in the 50s and 60s are completely unknown to today's pupils. I agree wholeheartedly that it is up to enlightened parents and grandparents like you to "teach your children well," to instill the zest for learning for learning's sake. For people like you and your father (and me) it remains one of life's greatest joys.

  2. Nice writing! You took me right back to elementary days!

    The start of the school year always has the opposite effect on me though. It brings me down to see summer over. Seriously down

  3. Oh the memories that smell brings up! I can hear the creak of my desk top when I open it and put all my supplies inside. I loved the crayons all new and not broke or smooshed! I liked to read the names of the students who had my text books before me...just to see if I knew them! I loved reading then and I still have that love today...I hated math then and I still have that hate today! My list of memorable teachers and even more memorable cute boys is still in my head at my old age! Kids today seem to have to know much more than we did in Kindergarten. I was lucky growing up that I lived right near the bus stop so I didn't have to wait in the cold and snow in the mornings..atleast until high school. I never did have the privilege of driving to school. So many memories...so many lines of this comment! Thanks for the trip back in time!

  4. What terrific school memories- they really took me back to mine. I love DIck and Jane, and have some vintage copies. They are quite collectable now, but to me they'll always be such a special place to visit and remember.

    I hope your grandolls have wonderful school years!

  5. OH my gosh Mom! I was literally laughing at loud reading all your little clumsy stories! So many elementary school memories kept fludding through my mind as I read this post! Aww grandpa is losing his beautiful white hair? You'll have to snap a pic when he's not looking!

  6. Oh the memories of school - I was sooo glad to have my kid done with school - I hated homework time!! Glad my grandkids all LOVE school so far..
    Don't you darn shave your head - I like you new style..and color.. All the best for your Dad..I am in the same boat - but my Dad is pass the chemotherapy and all the shots etc etc.. they say any time he could pass away.. Just make sure you hand hands more then ever..Oh he might like his feet rubbed -- my Dad asked all the time.. something to think about.. Anyway I'll be thinking of you..

  7. I have great memories of school starting. I was always so excited, and the shopping was something we rarely did which made it all the better!

    On my report cards, there was a lot of "Susie needs to exercise greater self control."

    My grandkids started school last week. I have some cute pics I need to post.

    Mia is special.


  8. my kids like to hear these stories and would love hearing yours..life now is different, but the same.

  9. I hated every minute I had to go to school! I'm so glad I dont have to go. I was always a nervous wreck. Somehow I always had girl drama, even at a young age. I was very sensitive and wasnt tough enough to hear my friends tell me they didnt want to be friends every other day. I dont have good memories of school at all! I was also terribly shy, I was always nervous the teacher was gonna call on me so I did my very best to be invisible. So glad it's my kids going to school and not me!

  10. I love how you wrote your own memories and then ended with saying these little ones are our future and need us to show them the way and nurture them. Can't you just smell those crayons in your mind? Randy Pausch in The Last Lecture talked about keeping one in his pocket so he could take it out rub it and feel the texture and give it a good long whiff... to be able to go back in time and remember what it was like to have childhood dreams...


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