In recent weeks I’ve been following all my Facebook friends’ pictures of their children headed back to school—from the kindergarteners to the college-bound. I’m glad those days are behind me, though I have good memories both of my own back-to-school days and my children’s.
When I was young, school never started until after Labor Day. Labor Day weekend was the last chance to get sunburned, play in the swimming pool or lake, and relax without a care in the world beyond who got the biggest cookie for dessert.
But Labor Day was also tinged with excitement. Change was coming—a new teacher, maybe new classmates, and new books full of new information. I went to the same school from second through eighth grade, so I could predict much of the change that was coming, but not all of it.
Even before Labor Day weekend, change was in the air. When I was a child, my mother took my brother and me to the local drug store to buy school supplies. In the early grades, we didn’t need much more than a Big Chief tablet, crayons (Crayola brand, of course), pencils, and a Pee-Chee folder.
Later, Elmer’s glue and blue-ink pens (no other color was permitted) were added to the mix. And in high school, we included binders, protractors, compasses, and other more sophisticated tools. Even a hand-held calculator, once such things became available.
A generation later, my children had similar experiences. They went to the same school from preschool days through eighth grade. My daughter started in the baby room in the preschool, and had seniority over all but two teachers by the time she graduated.
Shopping for school supplies with my kids seemed far more complicated than when I was a child. Each grade had a list of what was needed, and many of the teachers specified the particular color of folders needed for each school subject. Trapper Keepers replaced Pee-Chee folders. Paper had to be wide-ruled, not college-ruled. And Kleenex and paper towels provided from home reduced the school’s budget.
Then there was college . . . But acquiring the necessities for a dorm room will take a whole post to itself.
What traditions did your family have to mark the beginning of a new school year?