Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Back to School Supplies

It's The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

© 2008 Leighann Lord

I always get a little nostalgic this time of year. I have fond memories of that First Day of School Smell: a combination of polished wood, fresh paint, chalk and teachers' perfume.

I often joke that because my birthday is in September, my birthday presents were always back to school supplies; but to be honest, I miss it. I love the accoutrement of education. There was nothing like reaching into your brand new book bag, cracking open a pristine hard cover notebook, writing on fresh clean pages with a spiffy new pen. As a serious note taker I had pens in blue, black and red ink. I still have an affinity for the old blue barrel, medium point, four color BiC pen. The orange barrel means it's a fine point.

I'm a fiend for stationery. I still take pleasure in cruising through the pen section at Staples. I even know where all the cool pen purveyors are in New York City like, Rebecca Moss. I've made a pilgrimage to The Fountain Pen Hospital, and I can easily while away an afternoon at Kate's Paperie.

My love of pens is genetic and even great penmanship tends to run in the family. My Great Grandfather was a calligrapher who earned money on the side doing wedding invitations by hand. My Grandmother was ambidextrous, writing beautifully with both hands. My Mom's penmanship and prolific letter writing is legendary among our family and friends. My penmanship doesn't quite reach calligrapher quality. I've had to work on it to uphold the family honor, but I'm proud to say there's no doctor's chicken scratch here. We actually have a few doctors in my family, and we couldn't be more mortified.

Back to school shopping isn't just about stationery, there are clothes too, but I went to Catholic School. I wore a uniform in grammar school and endured a strict dress code in high school. All shirts and blouses had to have collars, skirts had to reach your knee cap and we were not allowed to wear laced, rubber soled shoes. Violation of the dress code meant a trip to the Girls Dean, Mrs. Spear (retired Army), would choose an appropriate outfit for you change into from the clothing rack in her office; a very scarring experience, but a valuable lesson that no one ever repeated.

Today's back to school necessities include quite a bit of technology, but when I was in school the gotta have gadgets were a compass, an electric pencil sharpener and a protractor. We needed the compass to draw circles and stab classmates. The electric pencil sharpener came in handy to weaponize your pencils in case you lost your compass. I'm pretty sure the protractor had a purpose but for the life of me I can't remember what it was. Either I never learned it or that knowledge has been replaced by the lyrics to "When I Grow Up" by the Pussy Cat Dolls.

If you were really high tech, you had a scientific calculator. "Oooh! Ahhh!" I never quite learned to master it. Given it's level of user friendliness it must be running on Windows Vista.

Parents don't get off that cheap anymore. Today's kids can't learn without an iPod, a cellphone and a laptop. And they out grow their gadgets almost as fast as their clothes. Luckily, technology is always in season. It would seem though that there are no hard and fast seasons for anything anymore.

This year the back to school sales ads began appearing about an hour after school let out for the summer. I guess they can't run them any later or they'll interfere with Christmas advertising. An early August visit to the craft store, Michael's, treated me to the surreal vision of Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations. The felt pumpkins looked wilted and the Pilgrims looked hot and sweaty.

I'm beginning to suspect why I, and most folks I know, feel so anxious, rushed and fatigued all the time. The retail world has become too out of sync with everyday life. Being advertised to so far out of season is disorienting. I stand by the conviction that hawking swim wear in January is wrong. I feel sorry for the mannequins. They look so cold.

I'd like to dash off an email to imploring the industry to please stop rushing me but email is easy to ignore. I blame the Nigerians who keep looking for people to help them with all the bank accounts that have been mysteriously abandoned in their country.

I wonder then if a more old fashioned approach would be more effective. It might indeed be time to marshal my stationery forces and pen a hand written letter. Of course nothing grabs the attention more than a good old fashion note scribbled in purple crayon. I'd love to use the box of Crayola 64s that I bought on sale back in June.

Welcome Back to School everybody!

Thank you for reading The Urban Erma.

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