Being mostly stuck at home this summer, I've been watching a lot of television; too much, probably.
Well, watching is probably not the right word. Let's say that they TV has been on a lot. Much of the time it has been functioning as background noise while I do other things. But I do glance up at it from time to time as I go about my daily activities. In the past couple of weeks, I've noticed something...the Back to School ads are in full swing and have been for a couple of weeks now.
That has made me take a look at the calendar, because it has seemed awfully early for that. Summer is just over a third gone. As I write this, it's just the last day of July. Isn't it a little early for thinking about school?
But then I looked at the calendar and realized that it really is almost time for school to start. The local community colleges here start back on August 12, and the K - 12 schools in the local district go back on August 19. That really isn't very long. Only a week and a half for the community colleges and two and half weeks for the elementary school, middle school, and high school kids. I had been wondering what those sighs of relief I've been hearing from around town were; it's all the parents glad that summer vacation is almost over and the kids will be gone most of the day every day.
This still seems odd to me, though. Back in the day when I was in school, at this point in the year, it was still over a month until the beginning of the school year.
Where I grew up, we got a full three months of summer vacation. Here, now, the kids get just two months. We got out around June 15 every year and went back on the Monday closest to September 15. And that, I guess, is how my internal clock is still set. It just isn't right that the kids are going back to school before my birthday, which is toward the end of August.
That was always the time I started getting excited about going back to school. Yes, I said excited. Up until I was about halfway through junior high, I loved school. And, even when I was past being enthusiastic about the practical realities of school, I was still glad to be going back after being out for the summer.
Right about that time, about three weeks out from the first day of school, we would start back to school shopping. First would be clothes shopping. Not my favorite part of the process. I've never been that fashion conscious. Note that this is a huge understatement. I like comfy clothes, and from the time I started kindergarten through the end of seventh grade, school clothes were never, ever comfy clothes. That was long enough ago that my district's dress code said that girls had to wear dresses to school. No trousers, and especially no shorts. Dresses. Always. So, shopping for school clothes was something I participated in only reluctantly.
Shopping for school supplies was another story. I loved shopping for notebooks and pens and pencils and all the rest of it. And I got a new notebook every year, and a new lunchbox for the days I took my lunch to school (up through elementary school; after that, taking a lunch was Just Not Done). Through elementary school there was never a real need for paper and writing implements; in those days school budgets were such that in elementary school, things like paper and pencils (no ink allowed) and crayons and erasers were furnished by the school. That part of the shopping process became much more fun starting in junior high, when we started having to bring our own stuff, even though that was more of chore because those were the days before carrying a backpack was the thing to do. To this day, I still love a visit to the local office supply store. Some people like hardware stores and some like fabric stores; I can browse for hours in Office Depot or Office Max. Back when I was in school, the hardest thing about acquiring school supplies was keeping from using them until school actually started.
The shopping was always done by about a week before school started, which mostly had to do with my parents wanting to avoid the last-minute crowds. That was also the time when the class-list watch began. This was especially true the three years when we lived right around the corner from the elementary school I attended. Even though I knew that the class-lists wouldn't be posted on the front doors of the main building until a day or two before school was scheduled to start, I'd look every time we'd drive by. And then, starting on the Friday before school started, I'd ride my bike over to the school every couple of hours to see if the lists were up yet, even though they rarely posted the lists before midday on Saturday.
Finally, on one of those drive-bys or bike-bys, the lists would be up. It was always the most excruciating thing if I saw them as my mom and/or dad and I were on our way out somewhere, because the rule was that I couldn't stop and look until we were done with our errands and were on the way home. Often, in fact, we would go back home and then I would have to walk or ride over to the school to see the lists which listed, for each classroom, who was teaching that class and which students were in the class. When it would happen that way, I wouldn't even go in the house when we got home; I'd just take off up the street to check the lists.
After the lists were out, all that was left was to wait for Monday and the first day of class.
All these years later, I still miss all of that. And all these years later, it still feels wrong to me that the kids around here are going back to school in the middle of summer. The only good thing about the schedule, here and now, is that the break is only two months long. As much as I always was looking forward to summer vacation (because as much as I liked school, I also liked time off without tests and homework), three months seemed like an awfully long time, even though during my elementary school years we were always away from home for at least half of that time.
So, I'm feeling a little nostalgic right now, seeing all those back-to-school ads. I don't miss the tests and I don't miss the homework. And I don't miss the shopping for clothes. But I sure do miss the anticipation of waiting for the first day of school.
Which is just another indication of the depth of my geekiness, I suppose.