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School Supplies – It’s a sickness

July 23, 2007

It’s that time, again. The time when all of the stores stock up on all of the supplies our kiddos need to go back to school. With the thermometer hovering around 100 degrees, it’s hard to imagine that the dog days of summer–the days of the perpetual sprinkler, bathing suits, coconut-smelling suntan lotion, backyard BBQs, popsicles and ice-cold lemonade–will soon be replaced with getting up early, homework routines, earlier bedtime, and Back to School Night. But it’s coming.

I actually love this time of year. I don’t love the heat. In fact, I yearn for the crisp mornings of fall–the reds, deep oranges and golds of the leaves, the quiet hum of the ceiling fan that I can hear once the Air Conditioner isn’t running full time, the thought of cinnamon and gingerbread, Halloween costumes, and holiday time. Maybe it’s the thought that those things are coming that make this time of year so great. Maybe it’s just the overwhelming number of school supplies out there.

I’m not much of a shopper, really. I’m a “get in, get it, get out” kind of gal. But I must admit that school supplies are my downfall. I could spend hours in the aisles lined with endless stacks of three-hole punched, pristine, wide-ruled notebook paper. I love to look at the packages of never-opened, never-used pink erasers, pencil toppers, and pencil grips. I love to run my fingers over the smooth covers of the rows and rows of spiral notebooks, glossy folders, three-ring binders, and Composition pads. I get positively giddy over the packages of Number 2 pencils, 10, 24, or 36, sharpened or not.

I love to fill the cart with all of the things the young ones will need, checking each item off of the list I carry in my purse. I love the fact that glue sticks are $0.25 for a 2-pack. I love that the 36-pack of pencils are just $0.99. Rulers are $0.50. School supply boxes–in red, green, purple, or blue–are $0.50, too. But my favorite–the best part–is the brand new boxes of crayons, the tips still sharpened, the smell of wax so fresh, for just $0.20 a box.

I load up on crayons, folders, notebooks, protractors, rulers, notebook paper, sticky notes, and hand sanitizer. I carefully place washable markers, dry erase markers, pencils, supply boxes and Kleenex by the 10-pack into the cart. I shiver with delight at the bargains there are to be had at this time of year.

The kids aren’t even with me. In fact, I don’t think they care so much about this shopping experience. The last few years they’ve been bored about 10 minutes into it. I never have. I remember school shopping as a kid and I feel the same about it now as I did then. Even though none of these supplies are for me, there’s just something about getting all of these new things that is exciting. There’s something about the fact that no one has written on anything, lost the cap to the marker, left the lid off of the gluestick, or bent the folders that makes this purchase almost as exciting as it was when I was 10. I’m sure it had much more to do with the excitement of getting back to the routine, seeing friends I had missed over the summer, making new friends, and learning that I associated with school supply purchase back then, but I truly am excited about it now.

This year, I’m on my own and I’m loving the leisurely pace through the aisles. It’s early enough that the aisles aren’t packed with parents and kids following this same ritual. I shudder as I recall last year’s debacle, four kids surrounding the cart, each of them grabbing for what they need, in the midst of a sea of others doing the same. It reminded me a little of the Cabbage Patch Kid craze in the mid-80’s and I was ready for a Valium by the time we left.

Not so, this time. I finish up with this trip and take my bags of loot to the car. I will go home and divide these many school supplies into separate bags, one for each kiddo. I will label everything and have it ready when mid-August rolls around. The kids will be ready to go and I even have some extras for home. I breathe in the scent of paper, wax, hand sanitizer, and strawberry-scented erasers (no, not on the list, but I had to get them anyway) and shut the trunk.

It will be another year before it’s school supply time again, but I feel satisfied that this trip has gone well. Every item on the list has been checked off and we only need new backpacks. I won’t have to brave Wal-Mart or Target with the packed aisles of screaming children and frazzled parents. It’s all done! And I’m early… I have a momentary twinge of disappointment, thinking that it will be months before I’ll smell that new-crayon smell again–before everything is new once again. I dash back into the store and reach for another box of crayons…

I’ll keep that one for myself… until next year.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Lynda permalink
    July 23, 2007 11:05 am

    Nice essay…and lucky you! Getting to go school shopping is always so much fun. But my kids are grown up and my stepkids’ mom shops for them, though many times we pay for the shopping. Give the kidlings some big hugs from their Auntie and give them my love. Miss you!!

  2. July 23, 2007 11:22 am

    I also just LOVE school shopping. There’s nothing better than SUPPLIES. Office supplies, school supplies, pantry supplies. What gives with my sense of safety with supplies? And, I agree with you, shopping for them is even better. Sifting through all the cool folders, the smell of “new” and the excitement that Fall brings. I’m with ya sister… I’m with ya.

  3. Traci permalink
    July 24, 2007 7:04 am

    I think we are kindred spirits, be it school supplies or dealing with the stepson’s mom! I had this same shopping experience Sunday evening. It was wonderful, although I was quite concerned that on the way home those beautiful, not yet used crayons might melt, so I kept that bag up front with me…hee hee. I know I am a freak!

    I love to read your blog. I am certain that it is therapeutic for you to write about the issues with the mother, and for me it helps to read it, knowing that I am not alone in my journey, dealing with the ugliness that is the mother!

  4. July 24, 2007 9:09 am

    Well, if it weren’t for the fact that I suspect you went to WAL-MART, and that you have already finished, I would have begged to go with you. Really, I wouldn’t have bothered you at all, because I would have been so caught up by my own strange pleasure in paper and pencils, and glue and construction paper. Since spouse-man went to school I sneaked away the beginning of the semester for my own little taste of buying just for him – even though the last thing he needed was another package of 3 hole/lined paper….
    Remember in the movie You’ve Got Mail when we wanted to buy her a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils? I am so all over that….

  5. July 31, 2007 4:12 am

    There is something renewing and promising about new school supplies…the scent of new crayons, fresh notebooks and recently sharpened wood pencils all just waiting to be used!!

    I love the autumn, myself, and the beginning of the new school year. Though this year, I have a twinge…mixed emotions, I guess. My daughter starts Kindergarten and my son starts his first preschool year. *sigh* It’s good and bad–they’re growing up so fast, but now I have a great reason to do just what you did and purchase all kinds of supplies! 😀

  6. Idetrorce permalink
    December 15, 2007 5:09 am

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

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