Rural Living

School Dazed

Bombarded by Back-to-School Buying


by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

As I’m sure many of you are aware, it’s back-to-school time!          

Parents are breathing a sigh of relief, probably looking forward to a few hours a day of “down time.” Kids are excited, especially the girls. There are new outfits to show off, new textbooks to smell (surely I’m not the only one who loved the smell of a new book), and snazzy new binders festooned with boy bands, or pandas or penguins.

Oh, I did love going back to school in the fall. Of course, it only took a couple of days before I remembered the not-so-wonderful things. Seeing the boy you “loved” mooning over another girl. Finding out you’d gotten Miss So-and-So for math. Discovering you would not make the cheerleading squad after all.

By now, most of you parents have finished the back-to-school shopping. I’m sure you looked upon it as what it is: A grueling, expensive ordeal.

Remember when all we really needed were some new shoes, a box of pencils, a pack of Blue Horse paper and a three-ring binder? Remember when those binders only came in one or two colors? A girl in love with pink was out of luck. And, oh yeah, a ruler (remember slide rules? Did you ever figure out how to use one?) and a compass. The compass was an unwieldy metal thing with a very sharp point on the end. It was for drawing circles, as I recall. I’m sure such pointy objects are outlawed in schools today.

Nowadays, schools publish lengthy lists of items every kid must have. They include tissues, hand sanitizer and zipper plastic bags. When we were kids, the only “hand sanitizer” available was simple soap – Lifebuoy or Cashmere Bouquet. And we certainly didn’t have to bring soap to school. There was plenty of the stinky stuff over the single sink in the rest room. We didn’t need to bring tissues or zipper plastic bags, either. I don’t think bags that “zipped” had even been invented yet. Our sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper.

If you’re still trying to recover from back-to-school shopping, consider this: A friend of mine has six children, three girls and three boys, who will be in kindergarten through 11th grade this fall. She piled them all in the car and drove across two or three mountains to Staunton this week. That thought alone is cringe-worthy.

But this woman had smart kids. The oldest took each of the six lists of supplies and organized them into a master list to take to the store. Upon arrival, each child took his or her version, and hit the aisles, hauling their notebooks, folders, pencils and seven (yes!) reams of notebook paper back to Mom’s burgeoning basket.

A second basket became necessary; an older boy was appointed its wrangler. This naturally resulted in a shopping-cart race. My friend is surprised they weren’t asked to leave, but she figures once the manager got a load of the overflowing carts, he calculated they could do as they wished.

The youngest were of course the most excited. The others had been there, done that. But the littlest ones could barely control their anticipation. They bounded about the store, gathering crayons, colored pencils and bright neon erasers.

Of course, any BTS shopping trip includes the dreaded stop for shoes. Swoosh! There went 300 of my friend’s dollars. And a mom can’t haul six kids to Staunton and not feed them. She selected Red Lobster for lunch. A nice treat for them; a much nicer treat for Mom, if you count the piña colada.

Once home, there was more work to do. Mom dumped everything on the kitchen table, and the kids set about, lists in hand, organizing their piles. The older veterans stored their booty in their rooms; they knew they wouldn’t need it for about a month.

But the youngest, eager to get started, made a neat, towering pile right by the door. She was ready! Turns out, she had even packed her lunch and put it into the proper new go-to-school box. Later, my friend heard her youngest practicing.

“Goodbye, Miss Ann,” she trilled to the as-yet-unmet saint who would be her teacher. “I’m packing up to go home now!”

Gee, I hope she makes the cheerleading squad, and doesn’t get Miss So-and-So for math.

To order Margo Oxendine’s A Party of One, email, or call 540-468-2147 Mon-Thurs from 9-5.


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