School Supply Shopping: Load Up on Good Memories

I’m still enticed. Every year. Late summer comes and I see them. School supplies line the School Suppliesaisles of Target, Office Depot, even Walgreen’s.

The aisles of notebooks, pens, folders, planners, backpacks, and crayons kind of get me fired up. It’s a fresh start, new beginnings, a clean slate. I haven’t been in school for a long time and my kids are in their 20s. But when I see those school supplies lined up, awaiting their new home, I tell myself, “You’ve been kind of slacking this summer, getting loosey goosey. You can do better. Buckle down!” And then I may throw a pack of Post-it Notes or new Sharpies into my cart.

I wanted to know what other people thought about school supplies. The responses were as positive as a package of pink erasers.

“Buying supplies makes you feel very productive, but no work is involved so it’s a false sense of productivity,” said A___, a 26-year old grad student.  A___ elaborated: “You get to go and buy new things, and I like to buy new things, but you need to buy them so you’re not feeling guilty.”

A__ is sporting an avocado pencil pouch, and avocado and houndstooth binders as grad school begins. Who can’t succeed with that?

21274-crayon-box-sharpenerWhen asked whether he liked school supply shopping, N__ said, “I don’t. It’s a necessary evil…like all shopping.”  Like most 21-year-old engineering students, N__is a bit of a contrarian but he did soften a bit on the subject. “Yeah, I like it,” N__ said.

Soon N__ will return to college and he’s packing some notebooks, folders, and mechanical pencils. Nothing fancy. He’ll also bring along his cigar cutter, laptop charger, and hot sauce collection. And his sarcasm.

L__ has been out of the school supply shopping business for decades but carries good memories. “It feels good,” L__ said, “I like to get organized.” L__ may have other issues like feeling his life would have more order and discipline if he wasn’t surrounded by less organized minds.

For M__, seeing the school supplies is also a positive vibe. M__, 27, said that she misses school supply shopping. She works in the healthcare field, but still has fond memories of playing store with her sister on the porch after bringing home the load of supplies. It brings back good memories.

My mind rushes back to the ’70s when my school career began. I loved summer more than most things. I resented school’s impostition on my free time. School supplies, however, were a different thing. New clothes. Yawn! It meant new knee highs and blouses for my school uniform. And I didn’t care about who my next teacher would be or who I’d sit next to in class. But school supplies were oh-la-la!

Now for me, school supply shopping surpasses any New Year’s resolution for sheer motivation to be more productive with my time, get back on a routine, get my head in the game. And it lasts longer too. Even if I don’t buy a single pencil.

The Force: Grandma and the Aunts

In 1976, my older brother graduated from high school. A large party seemed to drop from the sky, in my 11-year-old eyes. In reality, it was a lot of work. If I stretch my memories, I recall some unwanted nagging, knowing my mom was stressed about cleaning the house and making sure it stayed clean.

IMG_1117But on party day, it seemed effortless. A lot was because of these three ladies. Sisters. Grandma and the aunts. When there was a holiday, they sprung. When there was a wedding, they baked. When one of their children had a party at their house, they became a united, untiring force.

I was never privvy to the coordination but I knew there was a conversation something like this: What does Sue Belle (my mom, Lorraine) need for “Jackie’s” (my brother named John aka Jack) graduation party?

And then it began. These ladies were devoted to “a la famiglia” in the micro and macro.  We were noisy and rambunctious, and seemed to be the light in their worlds. We all had very special bonds with our own grandmas. I knew how my grandma hummed when she cleaned or cooked. I knew what kind of candy was in her purse. I knew the smell of her house for Sunday lunch. I learned to love provolone cheese from her. We also had bonds with the aunts.

In the limited way  that a kid understands people, we knew that that these ladies worked hard because they were always busy. Also, when they were done working, there was a bit of fanfare as we were asked to “rub Auntie’s feet” or “get me a glass of water” or ” grab my purse for me.”  They slowed down to play cards or talk, and you usually got to hear an interesting story or a some laughs. Or bickering, which they could manage standing up too.

Each of these ladies had their own personalities and strengths. They would probably be a good case study on the birth order effect. They had their marriages and children and grandchildren. They had mutual friends, but each had their own spheres of influence.

But when I see this picture, I think of them as one. They shared so much of life together. They shared their families with each other and each other with their families. They were “grandma and the aunts” and they worked well together, probably better together.

The youngest sister just died at age 100. My grandma, the oldest, has been dead since 1981. The middle sister died some time in between. We joke that they are bickering with each other again, but I imagine they feel that oneness again, with everyone and everything.