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.