First day of school! Back to school supplies, new clothes, lunches all sorted and arranged in a frenzy of preparedness…parents across the continent have snapped pictures and sent the kids packing.  A mixture of pride, and perhaps relief, with a whiff of sadness.  They are growing up.

And for some, the day is full of angst as four-year olds make their first forays into junior kindergarten, or their older kids start at a new school for the first time, and as older ones spread their wings and leave the nest in their first years of university.

So much emotion, so much anxiety.  Will they make friends? Will their teacher be nice? Will they be bullied?  Will they be happy?

The answers – yes, hopefully, hopefully not, and yes.  We were happy – just like the generations before us. Both at school and after school.

I can’t say that everything at school was fantastic, I mean my Grade 4 teacher Mrs. B used to chastise us with, “Stop whispering back there!  I used to listen for airplanes during the war – I can hear you plainly!” Also, several of her students passed out while executing the daily “Lead the Class in Oh Canada” duty…and there was the unfortunate “karate chop” incident that led to my one-on-one with the Principal…

But overall, thinking of school is nothing but a nostalgic visit with memories that make me happy.  We all have them. Things like:

Recess.  I mean recess…how cool.  Unless it was “Indoor Recess” because it was too cold or too wet.  Recess meant “foot hockey”…tennis ball soccer with goalies using their coats as “goalie pads”. Or it meant Four-Square or Kings’ Corner, with the red rubber bouncy ball (you know, the one that made the pinging sound as it bounced) and three opponents in a four sectioned square.  Or it meant tether ball, or dodge ball or Spud or tag or hide-and-seek or British Bulldog or red-rover.  These were the things that made school fun.

Or was it the School Sports Day?  One whole Spring day full of relay races, where everyone sat down in line – calmly – once they had navigated the obstacle course, or hula-hooped, or put on the clown outfit, or did whatever the teachers invented. A day full of competitive spirit, when every team was in the hunt for the coloured ribbons.  And it was the day when you got that awesome orangey-like juice from the McDonald’s cooler, to wash down the one lunchtime hotdog.

And what about assemblies…the whole school in one place. All the kids kept trying to get the attention of their best friend in the other class…or it was youngest siblings waving at their “cooler” older sibling who was trying their hardest to ignore them. And the snake-like cacophony of the teachers’ constant “shhh”s  as we waited for the Principal to introduce the Visitor.  Rumours were prevalent just before Assembly…would it be Elmer the Safety Elephant or Blinky the Police Car…would it be a guitar sing-song or a short film?  Would we be watching another class do a special play? So much excitement, so much fun!  Regardless of the reason, it was always an exciting break from the routine.  Good for some time away from the grindstone!

And in the same vein, what about the perennial Christmas concert…I have been to them as a parent, and except for that four-minute period that your own child is singing a Christmas medley of Rudolph/Frosty/Jingle Bells…it is painful.  Oh, wait…the kindergarten kids, regardless of their song, are so cute with their snowflake hats or elf costumes!! Regardless of the pain, for uncounted generations, parents have endured as their child has sung with gusto to be heard above the others in the Choir.

And lastly there was the favourite “Parent Night” (not to be confused with the dreaded parent-teacher conference.  Moms and dads coming in to the open house, as their children showed off their notebooks, their desk space (all tidied up and neat for the special occasion), and proudly pointing out the artwork that made the bulletin board, or the short story with the gold star at the front of the classroom.  For me and my sibs, the evening was usually capped off at the house with an evening treat – ice cream or cake and hot custard.  It was awesome.

As I sit and reminisce, I think of all the other things that made me happy to go back to school…

  • the 64 pack of Crayola with the built-in sharpener and awesome colours like Periwinkle Blue and Vermillion, which morphed into Laurentian Pencil Crayons as I grew older….
  • the utility math kit, with the compass and the protractor and the six-inch ruler and the eraser – which usually finished the season with a broken case containing only a snapped ruler…
  • marking your supplies with your name – and usually putting a masking tape “flag” on your pens on which to write your name….
  • Coming home at lunch time to tomato soup and a cheese sandwich as I watched Fred and Barney get into another jam. They were “Stupid Good-lookings”…a “Judo-chop-chop”
  • Chocolate bar sales as we raised money for some unknown cause, motivated by earning that Pizza Party for the class
  • Feeling slightly sad for the kid who forgot his indoor shoes during the winter and had to spend the day walking around in socks…but boy, could they slip and slide down the polished hallways!

  • The audio centre at the back of the classroom, where we could put on a record, don the headphones and listen to “A Spoonful of Sugar” or the “Bear Necessities”… with the teacher tapping us on the shoulder to tell us we were singing a bit too loudly
  • The jokes we used to tell…Knock,Knock…I was born on a Pirate Ship…or the mildly risqué story that was made up entirely of Chocolate Bar Names (you remember, with Oh Henry and Sweet Marie…)
  • The foldy paper-thingy – a “fortune teller” or “cootie catcher” – that had numbers and colours and told you your future depending on the combinations you gave the owner…
  • The arts and crafts that produced Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards, or Easter baskets or snowflake calendars….
  • And finally, the classroom party – dressed up for Hallowe’en, or participating in the gift exchange at Christmas ( I remember getting socks one year.  Practical; but what 8 year-old wants practical?), or the Valentine Day card-giving (with the little cards, and the unofficial competition of who would receive more, and your parents’ advice to give one to everyone so that no one’s feelings got hurt), Easter and then the  year-end Party. Surprising that we got anything done.

I don’t know if all that happens anymore.  My kids have grown.

Maybe things have changed…maybe computers and smart phones or Health and Safety and our litigious nature have changed everything.  I hope not. I hope that underneath our radar, underneath the white noise of “earning a living”, or “paying the mortgage”, or “the pursuit of the material goods”, that our kids are doing the things that kids should do – and that they are having fun. That’s the way it should be.

And, because, kids are kids, whether it is 1976 or 2012 – I bet they are! And If I’m wrong, I am sure you will let me know.

Happy back to school, Everyone.

Later,

ASF

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