It was a sight for sore eyes to see the yellow school buses rolling in Navasota again. Their presence hints of a return to normalcy. They also reminded me of my back-to-school days at Helms Elementary.
I grew up starting each new school year the Tuesday after Labor Day. The last few weeks of August were spent buying school supplies and school clothes, and Labor Day was our swan song to summer and the last holiday until Christmas – which to a 6, 7 or 8-year old was an eternity.
I loved the feel and smell of my new school supplies! Several years and columns ago, I wrote about our annual visit to the tobacco booth at Weingarten’s on Yale at 21st Street to pick up a cigar box to hold my crayons, pencils, eraser, paste, and scissors. This was long before Hello Kitty, Frozen or Captain America school paraphernalia. The aroma of cigars and brand-new school supplies still bring a smile to my face more than half a century later.
What didn’t make me smile back then was the selection of a new book satchel. I guess I wasn’t destined to be a corporate mogul because I never really liked book satchels that resembled brief cases, but that’s what my mother bought until junior high school when, thankfully, I graduated to a zipper binder. My mother always bought a plaid satchel. I hated plaid and at the end of the school year, that plaid satchel marred by snags and torn straps, joined my peeled, broken crayons, stubby pencils with chewed erasers and dried out paste in Mama’s wastebasket.
As I prepared for third grade, however, plaid satch els became the least of my worries. Another not-so-fond memory had to do with school clothes. Perhaps because I was born prematurely, I was smaller than most first graders, but it was in the third grade that puberty began to rear its ugly head and marked the beginning of my lifelong struggle with my weight. Third grade was my introduction to the “Chubby Girls” section at the Sears & Roebuck on N. Shepherd. I hated the Chubby Girls section even more than I hated plaid! The perfect storm of weight, puberty, shortness, and hem lengths created a September nightmare, but as I grew older I was able to take control of my own clothing and hem destiny, thanks to two-and-a half years of sewing in my high school home economics class.
Despite my childhood dramas and traumas, I still get sentimental about September and the return to school. For this less than stellar student, September was a do-over, a chance to turn over a new leaf and be the straight-A student I aspired to be. It offered another go at NOT peeling my crayons or chewing on my erasers and breaking habits I perceived even in elementary school to be personal shortcomings. September was moving past last year’s “C” in conduct for talking too much and moving toward being less social and listening more.
I’m much more organized nowadays but some old habits do die hard. One is apparent in my appointment book with January’s carefully written entries which deteriorate to scribbles by December. I’ve outgrown some of my childish dislikes, too. In a nod to my mother’s love of plaid, my September décor wouldn’t be complete without my very own plaid tablecloth!
Connie Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and award-winning columnist. She writes feature news articles on a weekly basis and an opinion column as the mood strikes her.