“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” One of my favorite commercials has nothing to do with the holidays. A father pushes a bright red plastic shopping cart, practically pirouetting with joy, following glum children down the aisle of a Staples office supply store.
I couldn’t agree more, but not because I was so happy to see summer end and the school year begin (although I was). I still feel gleeful at this time of year, even now that one of my boys has graduated college and one will soon start his senior year and buys his own supplies.
It is because of the promise: of crisp white unfilled notebook pages; of new sharp pencils with unmarred pink erasers; of black and blue BIC round sticks chomping at the bit to let their ink flow; of all that potential for learning and thinking and writing.
And it’s not just as a parent that I tingle starting in mid-August, as the yellow school buses appear anew navigating their route’s trial runs. I was one of those nerds who loved the start of school. I eagerly awaited the first day, carefully planning my outfit – oh, those fall clothes shopping trips with my mom – and arranging and rearranging and color-coordinating new notebooks, folders, and markers. The excitement was almost too much for me.
When the boys and I shopped for school supplies, or, I should say when I shopped for school supplies for them (they did not share my level of sheer delight for some reason), I always bought more than I needed. I can resist a new lined notebook as well as I can resist a square of dark chocolate. I’d pass by a pair of new pumps, on sale, on my way to the mountain of loose-leaf paper. I had a small stationery store of my own in our pantry: graph paper (my personal favorite), yellow legal pads, spiral notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers…you get it. I set up the boys with military-precise back-to-school packets, even thinking of the appropriate color for each subject (green notebooks and folders for Environmental Science). Such a dweeb.
When I moved from the house to a small apartment I had to let a lot of the stash go. I tried to find good homes for everything. Spare backpacks and multi-subject binders went to Human Services for new students in need. My ex’s seven year old got trash bags full of crayons and markers. The boys took some notebooks for their creative endeavors. I kept only a minimal amount of just-in-time inventory.
Now I keep driving by Staples with its red siren façade: “come on in, Diane, the water’s fine!” it calls to me. But, like a hoarder in recovery, I don’t dare go in. I doubt I could resist the mountains of multi-colored marble notebooks and matching folders. But I could use a blank notebook for my upcoming trip… I could stop in for just a minute, right? But I don’t. I drive on in search of a square of dark chocolate.