I suppose there are people out there who didn’t thrill to buying new school supplies at the end of the summer, when they were kids, and teenagers, but those people were never friends of mine.
I have vivid memories of my mother taking me to the Dartmouth Bookstore in Hanover, NH, where I would carefully, carefully, select the notebooks and pens and pencils and erasers and the pencil case that I would use for the next nine months. Some parents would have probably just taken the kid to the local five and dime and said, “Come on, let’s get this crap and get out of here,” but my mother is the sort of person who understands the importance of notebooks, and so is my father, for that matter: basically, everyone in the household grasped the importance of having the right tools for the tasks facing us. I remember that my father even had opinions about which protractors were good and which ones were mere mediocrities. It was difficult when we couldn’t find the right color Trapper Keeper notebook, but I survived; and some of the discoveries of that era (Le Pens, for example) are gifts that keep on giving, all these years later. I still go to Hull’s Art Shop on Chapel Street to stock up on my preferred colors of Le Pens (and I get ticked off when my daughter nicks them to draw with — because they are a pleasure to use — and ruins the pen tips). When my daughter needs school supplies, I do the right thing: I insist we take an inventory of what she already has that’s good, and then I make a list of what gaps need to be filled.
This year, I’m told, she needs to have two highlighter pens. I don’t think I had a highlighter of my own until I was in high school, but whatever. We did inventory and then wrote up a list of what gaps needed to be filled in, and we went downtown.
The pleasure of stocking up on new erasers, new notebooks (two composition notebooks required, in addition to the looseleaf binder with five labeled, tabbed, sections of fresh looseleaf paper), new pencil case (to supplement the old pencil case, which is to hold colored pencils exclusively), new pencil sharpener! What colors should the composition notebooks be? (Because these days, you don’t have to settle for just black and white. My daughter opted for teal blue and a shade of purple I think of as Chiclet Purple.)
The joy of laying everything out on the dining table when you get home to examine it all and assemble it and decide which things will be embellished with zebra striped duct tape and which will have leopard print duct tape! We didn’t acquire any Trapper-Keeper folders, but there was joy in the house nonetheless.
My daughter is very pleased with herself to have everything all set up. I made her pack it all away into a brown paper bag with handles so that her special new school supplies wouldn’t wind up scattering around the living room and dining room — the temptation to have it merge with the chaos of the papers that are piled high on the kitchen table is vast — but last night she unpacked it all to show her father. “Look, Papa,” she said. “Look at my new green pencil case!” He admired it dutifully. “Looks good,” he said. “Should hold a lot of pencils.” He then glanced at me. “When does school start?”
“September first,” I said. “And we are all ready.”
We are ready….. if you don’t count the fact that I’ll have to sharpen all those pencils before we head off for the first day of third grade. This reminds me: I should really ask my husband, “Can you install that pencil sharpener that’s been sitting on the kitchen table for a few months now?”