My husband Mark walks into the study where I sit, still in my pajamas and bathrobe, reading “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” on my Kindle. Mark is dressed. He shoves his feet into the high-top leather shoes he left there yesterday and bends over to fit his heel into the shoe.
I hear the sounds of coffee-making in the kitchen, followed by the coat closet door opening and closing. Then the outside door opens and closes, and I know Mark is making his morning trek down our driveway and up the private drive for his morning paper that the delivery person leaves at the top of the drive.
Mark has national and local news apps on his iPad and iPhone that he reads throughout the day. He follows the Reds baseball team with MLB.com on his smart devices. He reads long news articles from various sources on his laptop computer at his desk.
But in the morning, he makes his coffee, takes a little walk, sometimes in rain or through the snow, so that he can read his local print newspaper. Just like always.
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.
There will be no pumpkin-carving this year,
Or costumes to make,
Faces to paint.
An infant in a pumpkin suit,
Three pirates sorting bounty
on a carpeted floor.
An Arabian princess,
Dracula, Frankenstein, ninja,
Batman or a Power Ranger.
Six hours away,
A toddler in a dragon suit today.
We need no jack-o-lanterns here,
The woods are near.
The wide spread of a swooping hawk’s wings,
The ryhthmic squawk at dusk,
The hoot of an owl,
Eyes piercing the dark,
Small critters scurrying to hide.
The stink of a skunk,
The screech of a fight in the night.
These woods hold much to fear,
We need no jack-o-lanterns here.
We’ll not go out this night.
Turn out the lights.
The ghosts of yesteryear