|Note: Ugly back-to-school shoes|
Why, at 57 years old, do I still at this time of year look forward to buying what were usually the ugliest shoes ever to come out of the mind of humans? Because, back when I got "back-to-school shoes," they had to be sturdy and functional; patent leather mary janes were for church and Keds (and PF Flyers) were for gym class. But school shoes were dark, leather and ugly and I got a new pair every fall.
And so, every Labor Day weekend in those moments just before dropping off to sleep or just waking up, my mind prepares itself for the first day of school. You know, back when the school supply list consisted of: a cigar box (seriously -- in first grade we asked the druggist for actual cigar boxes, which he nicely saved up throughout the year; in later years, you could get cigarbox-shaped boxes that were sold with school supplies), a pack of six crayons, a jar of paste and No. 2 pencils. In fourth grade I was excited that "ball point pens" were added to the list.
Was I the only one who insisted on wearing my new back-to-school clothes on the first day of school...and then sweated through the day because that's what you do when it's 89 degrees out and you're wearing corduroy and a sweater?
When I see kids board the bus these days, it seems so odd to me that there was a time where girls couldn't wear pants to school and boys couldn't wear jeans. No one was allowed to wear sneakers anywhere but in the gym. If you lived within a half mile of the school, you walked or rode your bike. If you rode a bus, you walked a block or so to the bus stop. Do they even have bike racks at schools anymore?
Side Note: This article from The Atlantic should be a must-read for all parents. I'm not saying we should allow our kids to ride their bikes behind the mosquito-spray truck (Umm...explains a lot, huh?) -- but playground equipment these days looks about a much fun as a handicap ramp at your grandmother's internist's office and, for God's sake, when did the school bus start this door-to-door service?
Autumn is bearing down on us and, while others are thinking in terms of apple-picking, raking leaves and pumpkins, I just remember the stress of that first day with all its dread and optimism, its jockeying for position in the classroom and its forming of hierarchies in the playground. And I remember getting home and feeling like I'd gotten something over with and now I could go back to my carefree summer life, only to realize I had to get up and do it all again the next day. And the day after that.
Mostly, though, I think of the new shoes...the ugly new shoes, glowing with cleanliness and not yet broken in, molding my feet to it's structure and eating away at my old worn socks.