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.