Needed school supplies — midlife nostalgia

I’ve been seeing abundant back-to-school ads lately, the only herald to the new school year now that folded supply lists are not arriving here, one way or another, in duplicate, triplicate and at times quadruplicate.

I had a love-hate relationship with school supplies. Office supply stores with their stacks of colored notebooks, racks of hanging pen packs, and an endless variety of sticky notes, erasers, rulers, scissors, and well, office supplies in general, have always enthralled me. Like a good hardware, craft, or fabric store, I love the possibilities of an office supply store.

Over the years I developed a system that worked fairly well. First we dug out the school backpacks from the corner of the closets where they were carelessly tossed on that last day of school, still filled with the broken pencils, doodled-on spiral notebooks, dried out markers, and lots of dust, paper scraps, broken lead, and pencil shavings.

Then we sorted out the salvagable from the trash.

That’s where the negotiations usually began.

“My list says I need five one-subject spiral notebooks.”

“You have two in here that you only used a couple of pages in.”

Problem number 1. No one wants to use old notebooks that may have curled corners on the covers, scribbles inside, and a few missing pages.

I have a box full of partially used notebooks that will provide all my notebook needs for decidedly the rest of my life.

It would go on from there.

“Do you really need a new eraser? What’s wrong with this one?”

“It’s got ink marks all over it.”

“It looks to me like someone wrote in ink all over it. Who could have done that?

“And the corners have crumbled off.”

“It still works, doesn’t it?”

Granted, we’re only talking about a few cents here or there at times, but the bill when we left the office supply store never failed to shock me.

How I miss those days of juggling 2, 3, or 4 supply lists and keeping track of who had what, crowding the five of us into the store aisles while the cart filled up with necessary items, denying the unending stream of appeals for the frivolous, until my willpower ran out from fatigue and confusion, and I found colored gel ink pens and mini-staplers in my cart at the check out.

We’d arrive home with our heavy bags and set up in the dining room where we sorted, labeled, and filled backpacks.

Actually, now that I think about it, there is a lot about those days of school-supply shopping that I frankly don’t miss at all. But some parts of it were rather nice and I remember those days of excitement for a new beginning in a new grade at occasionally a new school.

And I love office supply stores.

I think I’ll go there today. There are a few things that I need.

Mark Joseph’s (our youngest’s) first day of school, 1996.

17 thoughts on “Needed school supplies — midlife nostalgia”

  1. I taught for 34 years . That means K-12 , 12 first days of school, college , 10 first days of school college. 34 years teacher first days of school, 10 years teaching night school too and 10 first days of school. That’s about 66 first days of school and I am only 63 years old. I bet you can’t beat that. Then there’s two children and five grandchildren……,.

  2. Yes, I nod nostalgically about those school days, getting my children ready. The excitement, the worry, the preparations. I miss most the look of wonder and expectation in my children’s faces as they pulled up their backstraps, squared shoulders, and entered the new world of 3rd grade, or 8th, or sophomore year of college. Ahhhh. Nice post.

    1. Thanks. I’m having a hard time letting go some days. I miss those days for all the reasons you mention. Maybe if I had a handful of grandchild dropping by on me frequently, I might be doing a whole lot better with all of this.

    1. It’s something I’ve been thinking about life lately, how I never imagined what it would be like at this stage, and how things change, and will continue to change. A midlife crisis moment, I guess.

    1. Yes! Let’s go shopping together, and not mention it to our significant others. We can sneak all our new supplies into the house while they are away, hide everything under our beds, and surreptitiously sneak them out one at a time.

  3. “I have a box full of partially used notebooks that will provide all my notebook needs for decidedly the rest of my life.” LOL!! Me too. I was just wondering the other day if I should just toss that stuff. I can’t imagine we’ll ever use it.

    1. Something about throwing away perfectly good paper that I just can’t seem to do. Sometimes I pull the papers out, cut them into small squares and use for notes and reminders.

  4. Now I’m feeling nostalgic, too. Remembering the smell of opening that fresh box of crayons. And there are still a couple of notebooks around this house with maybe 25 good pages left in.

  5. These days I just pick up notepaper as I need it, pens and liquid paper… and that’s about it. Most of my work gets done by computer anyway.

    When I was in primary school, it meant getting hold of a bunch of things.

  6. It feels odd when August rolls around, knowing office supply stores are bulging with new, colorful, must-have products, but I don’t HAVE to go there. But I still do, anyway. 🙂


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