If you couldn’t already tell from the premature Halloween decorations in every convenience store window and the sound of children crying, fall is coming. Soon, the trees will adopt a fiery red-orange hue, lemonade stands will be replaced by tables of steaming apple cider and my favorite television shows will start up once again, thus removing any chance of developing one of those “social lives” everyone has been talking about. (Sounds overrated.) Most importantly, the return of autumn also brings one very important event: back to school shopping.
Maybe it’s some abnormal birth defect but ever since I was little, the prospect of buying new pencils and personalized erasers has made me more excited than the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song ever could. Perhaps it is the smell of newness, the sweet aroma of untouched highlighters escaping from the sealed package that sends my brain into a flurry. Or perhaps it’s the knowledge that my sanity will be dependent on the quality of one of these notepads when class is slow one day and my “doodle” instinct wants to take over. Whatever it is, back to school shopping was always an occasion to look forward to – and for good reasons.
Pencils, Smencils and Writing Utensils
I don’t know why adults limit themselves to boring ballpoints pens and mechanical pencils. As a kid, the options for writing utensils were endless. First, there were Smencils (which, asides from Nutella, are God’s gift to mankind). If I had a nickel for every time I rolled the strawberry scented pencil around in my hands in an attempt to make them smell delicious, I’d be able to pay off all of my student loans and buy every Furby that has ever existed. (That last part is hypothetical.)
Decorated pencils, the kind you win at after school Bingo tournaments, were a hit too. Despite their top-heavy (and most of the time, useless) erasers, this tool was always my favorite until I hit high school and realized writing with pencils covered in cartoon rabbits and rainbows is not the best way to make friends.
In junior year, my backpack weighed more than I did. If we lived in an alternate universe, my backpack would show up to school and complain to his purse and knapsack friends about me, saying things like, “My human is so heavy today,” and “Go ahead, try her on. I’m not lying!” As a result, I often longed for a rolling backpack that I could drag to school so I wouldn’t have to worry about falling backwards if I stood still for too long. However, once you breached the age of 10, owning such a bag became unacceptable. I couldn’t tell you why.
Backpacks with designs were also a fun alternative to regular backpacks that I would always take advantage of. Kids are allowed to sling bags with Justin Bieber‘s face over their shoulder. They’re allowed to get backpacks that look like pillow pets and share them at “show-and-tell” or haul around bookbags with colorful graphic designs on them. College kids (even older high school students) are barred from this options for the most part and are expected to get solid colored bags with their initials sewn into the top with no added decorations. Unless you have cool initials like LOL or CAT, this option is not fun.
It used to be required to have a binder for each class so at the beginning of every school year, I would run off to the nearest Staples and purchase 6 multi-colored binders. When I got home, I would spend hours gathering pictures of my favorite things (Scooby Doo, cookie dough, attractive bald actors…I had no boundaries) and gluing them onto the front of every one. By the end of the year, the binders would look like 5-week-old arm casts, covered with immature doodles and signatures from classmates. Eventually, yearbooks took over this responsibility and by the time I entered college, laptops had made binders obsolete and I was forced to move my memorabilia elsewhere.
Back to school shopping used to be my pride and joy. As I grew older, though, I became more aware of the value of money and I quickly learned that for the cost of 6 newly purchased binders, I could buy lunch for a week, a pair of shoes, or something else that was significantly more important. It wasn’t long before I was scooping up pencils from the ground, buying tattered notebooks at yard sales and re-using backpacks until every side had at least one hole in an attempt to save cash. Perhaps someday I will finally find that money tree I have been searching for and have enough funds to build a castle made of school supplies but until then, I will continue to peruse the aisles of OfficeMax, basking in the desires of my defective brain and remembering a time when pencils smelled like fruits and backpacks came in shades other than gray.
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