I’ve always loved the Back to School season—the multi-packs of pens and color-coded folders; the pins-and-needles waiting for class lists and schedules; the meeting of new teachers; the learning of new concepts and ideas and strategies; the building of new friendships; the freshness of a new year, new start.
As a kid growing up behind Chamberlin, even the air held an exciting smell on the first day back. The romanticism of that memory is only slightly tarnished by the adult realization of: bus exhaust.
As a mom I still love this time, torn through I feel in a thousand directions. Even the beloved school supplies aren’t so simple.
Brilliantly, the elementary schools now have an option for families to purchase school supplies in a bundle directly from the school, with the bundle magically delivered right to the student’s room. Viewed through the lens of a business owner, time is money and this supply-shopping service is a welcome bargain.
Ah, but when it comes to school supplies my lenses are coke-bottle thick and held together by tape over the bridge of my nose. The rows of ballpoints and Expos, the tabbed dividers, the organizational cubbies, they speak to me. Ultra-fine tipped Sharpie, my geeky heart beats for thee.
Plus, togetherness. How could I possibly miss out on the experience of lingering in the aisles with my eight-year-old as she searched for the perfect cat-themed, wide-ruled spiral? In the grand scheme, what’s another ten minutes spent elbow-deep in the not-Ticonderoga-pencils bin? Someday all too soon she’s going to be off at college and neither need, nor want, me to run supply recons with her. She wasn’t born with an innate ability to determine which bundle of sticky notes is the best value. It’s up to me to teach her. Starting now.
Oh why? Why do they have to grow up so quickly? Thank goodness the tissue multi-packs come with one more box than the class supply list requires.
As much as I love the start of the year, as exhilarating as it is to see the taping of the class lists to the glass doors, there’s a melancholy tinge within my heart. I love my daughters’ schools; I am thrilled with their learning and the opportunities available to them. I deliver to the schools my best girls, thankful for leagues of teachers and staff committed to their development and growth. But with each curbside pickup, there is left behind an almost imperceptible trail of seasons and phases outgrown. Does that backpack covered in smiling cat faces sense the limits of its time with her? The mama does.
An extension of back-to-school season, move-in weekends for Tarleton students are some of my favorite weekends of the year. For all the empty shelves and clusters of traffic, we receive a new population of people still young and optimistic enough to believe they can do most anything and brave enough to try. After a sleepy, restful summer, we are gifted with the energy of thousands of college students.
Each fall, as photos of the long lines of move-in traffic are posted on social media, I think about the families who researched their higher education options and specifically chose Tarleton. They deliver to Stephenville their young adults, with the imperceptible trails of thousands of childhoods stretching for decades out of our sight. Tarleton is chosen, and by extension, so are we, as a community.
It’s good to be chosen. It’s good to be trusted by all those other parents to pick up where they’ve left off. It’s good to be a community that has a hand in growing the next generations. It’s good to have the snack shelves emptied by the 20-somethings because my 39-year-old metabolism seriously does not need the temptation.
And as the taillights of thousands of parents shine backward on our city limit signs, it is good, indeed, to still have two cat-faced-backpack-wearers overwhelming my backseat with the noisiness of their fleeting childhoods.
Shelby Slawson - attorney, mom, writer, and ever-aspiring trophy wife - is a member of the E-T’s community columnists. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.