Everything shifts at the end of summer: The wind starts to give up on the summer heat; the scent of flowers vanishes to make room for the humus-scent of fallen leaves; and the sounds of children playing move from the street to the school yard.
Something in me shifts, too. I find myself at the office supply store loading up on staples and pushpins. I have a compulsive need to organize my desk. A few days later, I’m back at the store for three-ring binders, and I realize that what I’m really after isn’t office supplies—it’s back-to-school supplies. And I’m in my thirties.
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As I browse the aisles, I find I’m inexplicably drawn to grape purple markers and glittery glue sticks—things I don’t need, but somehow, suddenly, absolutely need. Why doesn’t anybody make a school-supply list for grown-ups? I think to myself.
In the binder aisle I get a flash of memory: choosing just the right neon-colored Trapper Keeper to hold the aviation-themed folders my father gave me (he’s a pilot). By now, I’ve forgotten the name of the meanie who stole my pencil bag, but I remember it was silver with a clear window and fit perfectly in my binder. I’ve forgotten the name of my third-grade crush but remember that he complimented me on my strawberry eraser. And I know that countless such memories are concealed in those long-lost classroom tools and trinkets.
The next time your children are carefully mulling over their pen selection, chewing a lower lip and lost in thought, consider your memories of your own school supplies. Maybe it’s not too indulgent to splurge on that fancy red pencil bag just this once. And maybe, too, there’s a box in your storage unit or your mom’s attic where some of your favorite school supplies (and the memories they hold) are waiting to be shared.
These things are, after all, some of the little building blocks of growing up, and the joy and fascination of them may even breed a few good habits later in life—like organizing one’s desk every autumn.