Do you remember what it was like to start a new school year? Do you remember going ‘back-to-school–shopping‘ with your mom? I am from the era of lay-away plans and one good pair of dress shoes and the best sneakers we could afford for gym class. I am also from the 70’s where we carried Lunch boxes to school, you now, the ones with the ‘glass’ thermos and you had to be so careful to never drop the box, or bang it against something. I can’t even begin to tell you the trauma and drama of getting to lunch period, only to open your lunch box and discover one of two things happened. The lid wasn’t screwed on tight enough, so the milk your mom said you were drinking because it was ‘good for you’ had leaked all over and everything smelled sour and was soaked, or the other disaster – as you picked up your thermos you heard that unmistakable sloshing sound of broken glass. That happened to me quite a few times and mom was always mad because NOW the new thermos wasn’t going to match and it cost a lot of money to replace – I guess they didn’t have plastic liners back then. Other things that I remember are, as I got older, I always begged my mom to let me get the ‘boy’ sneakers with the rubber toe and she always said, no. When designer jeans came out in the 80’s I was allowed to get one pair of conservative Gloria Vanderbilt‘s but with no stitching on the pocket because mom didn’t want me to bring attention to that part of my body. Heaven forbid!!!
Fast forward 30 years later and I have a daughter who is entering her senior year of high-school. Gone are the days of your ‘First-day-big-deal-back-to- school-outfit’, and gone are the days of shopping with mom. This generation of children doesn’t wait for what they want, I call them the ‘microwave’ generation – if you can’t get it in 30 seconds – you don’t want it. Everything they want, they must get immediate gratification because the abundance of choices, and styles and money is so different in this day and age. (Don’t they know that delay of self-gratification is a sign of maturity?)
I remember being little and waiting for what felt like FOREVER in between Christmas and my birthday in July, until we could get something new at the end of the summer and go back to school shopping with my 2 sisters – and it always felt like such a spree. Mom only took us to the better department stores. First, we would travel about 30 minutes from home to order our special, custom made shoes from Richard Duff in Denville, NJ. I think they were leather soled buster browns or something, but we never wore shoes like the kids do today, we didn’t have Payless and Famous Footwear, you got one pair of shoes and they went with EVERYTHING. Next we’d head over to another store where we always picked out new cotton underwear (white) and cotton socks (white) and a few outfits. It was also the dreaded moment of truth, and the horror of having to shop for a bra with mom, when every year we went through the same distress because I had nothing to put in mine and still wore the ‘stretch’ kind until my senior year in high school. We should have just gotten me t-shirts. I was always the president of the IBTC – my sisters outpaced me in that department very quickly.!
We didn’t have a lot of money, but we didn’t realize it. We always had what we needed and my mom was good with budgeting and planning. (I wish I had learned that skill from her) My parents didn’t have credit cards and quite frankly, didn’t believe in them. Mom always had a Christmas Club, and when they needed a new washer and dryer, I remember the first Sears and Roebuck card that entered our home, it was such a big deal!!! My dad works very hard as a blue-collar laborer, and at 65, he is still doing that same job today, the job he started when he was 17 years old, as an electrician. My dad is the epitome of loyalty and tenacity, he has never missed a day of work in almost 50 years ( except to when he fell down our icy steps on the lake about 30 of them, while carrying my sisters twins down to the house from the road (75 steps up) and he slipped on the ice, the baby went sledding and dad’s fall was stopped by a wrought iron railing that cracked his leg in half – he was such a brute that he waited a day before going to the emergency room, and told us all it was just a bad sprain) He has worked for the same company and truly taught me what it means to work and work hard.
Everything was respectful back then, and we were always covered up. I am not sure what the parents of today are thinking but some of the gals my daughter goes to school with appear as if they are doing the walk of shame and just coming home from a night out in the club….I am not certain of ‘what’ their intention is for learning, but the fashion stakes and the competition to ‘fit in’ is so fierce and it starts with the lousy-stinkin-brand of sneakers you’ve got on your feet. What happened to the basics? What happened to caring more about what was in your books than what was on your feet?
I struggle sometimes to reveal in a non-confrontational way the tenets of being a lady to my daughter. I try to be a good example, and keep her from the phony outer trappings that we all succumb to and it’s really a difficult part of parenting. I have raised her to believe that she is the most beautiful on the ‘inside’ and that beauty is fleeting. Such a tumultuous message.
On this night before the first day of her last year of high school, I pray for guidance and wisdom and peace. I pray for the patience to listen more than I speak. I pray for insight, compassion and strength to endure alongside of her, everything that is thrown her way. I pray for God’s hand to be upon her car as she drives to and from the senior parking lot. I wish for happiness and utter joy as she discovers ‘who’ she is going to be, ‘where’ she is going to attend college and that she always remembers to be a human ‘being’ not a human ‘doing’ – my daughter is using the wings that I gave her, and is standing firm in the roots of a loving family steeped with traditions, and memories. Our daughter is still blessed to have all 4 of her grandparents (who provide much wisdom/and commentary whether she wants to hear it or not!) and comes from a long line of consistency and committment, for there is no divorce in our families. When I stop and think about that, it really amazes me –
I miss my childhood and am quite sentimental. I miss going back-to-school- shopping with my own mom, and miss the simplicity of her sewing our outfits, buying presents for us in thrift shops, and knowing that no matter what, she was always there for us when we came home from school. My mom baked cookies, we had snacks and home-made lunches, and lot’s of love. I have tried to recreate that for my own daughter, and hope that she will pass the baton to her children someday.
Share with me your memories of ‘back-to-school’ , for I would really like to know……..