Thursday, August 14, 2008

That Time of Year

I love shopping for school supplies, don't you? Last year my kids went to a school where you paid a fee and the school supplies were provided. I felt cheated. Where's the supply list divided up by grade? When do I get to go to Walmart and fill my cart with way more things than I can pay for?
Part of the reason I love the school supplies is because it's a clear indicator that autumn is coming, and that's my favorite time of year. Of course, the stores are now messing that up because they start setting out the supplies in July. There's nothing autumny in July. But then again, when you're buying school supplies for six kids, you tend to have to spread it out over several weeks anyway. Still, it makes me think of crisp cool mornings, brilliant leaf colors, brisk afternoons.
But back to school supplies. There's a fine line between buying as inexpensively as possible and buying something so cheap you have to replace it before the school year was over. Backpacks are the worse for me. I am not going to pay $30 for a backpack. (With six kids, you do the math.) But at the same time, some of those $9.99 ones aren't going to make it to the second semester. I usually buy better ones for the older kids because they carry around more books. Most of the time several of my children still have a decent backpack to start the year. They originally thought that wasn't fair--that they had to have a new one every year--but I think they're beginning to see the wisdom in being thrifty. Or maybe they just accept it because they have to.
I also hate cheap lunch boxes. Most of my kids brown-bagged it in Alabama, but here in Florida they didn't have access to a refrigerator and it's hot down here. So everyone (including me because I was teaching) got lunchboxes with ice packs. They held together pretty well inspite of the fact that some of the kids were less than responsible with theirs.
But the real basics of school supplies are glue, pencils and pens and erasers. And of course, notebook paper. You can never have too much. I usually buy a couple of packs every week as soon as the school supplies come out. And there's nothing better than a freshly sharpened pencil. Or pens that aren't expensive, but don't leave little ink blobs all over your hands after using them all day.
Even kids that hate school seem to love getting all the new supplies. I guess it's kind of like a fresh start. Whatever grades you got last year are history. Didn't like your teachers? There's always a chance of better ones this year. It's a new beginning in what is basically the last quarter of an old year. It doesn't get better than that!
At the beginning of the movie, You've Got Mail, Tom Hanks is raphsodizing in email to Meg Ryan about how he loves New York in the fall. He goes on about the smell of scotch tape and then ends with, "I would send you a bouquet of sharpened pencils if I knew your address." Here's a bottle of Elmer's glue and a pink eraser to you. Have a great one!

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