Friday, July 15, 2011

Back to School

It may only be mid-July, but I just saw my first back to school commercial. It was a cereal commercial for Frosted Mini-Wheats, helping the excited children be fresh and focused for their first day back in school.

The children in the commercial eat breakfast and pick up their new backpacks and their new books and run toward the door of the school, to meet their friends.

Now that we are empty-nesters, I am not as aware as I was for so many years of when school lets out and when school starts again. If I happen to be in front of the house around 8 a.m. or 3 p.m., it hits me that school is in session (because of cars and bikes coming to and from the high school, which is 2 blocks away), and if I'm trying to do some grocery shopping and get caught behind a group of 2 or 3 college kids staring at the ingredients on a can of Campbell's Noodle Soup, or comparing the prices between the generic or the name brand, I can pretty much tell that the new crop of freshmen have come to Davis.

But otherwise, it really isn't something that I dwell on. But the commercial reminded me of what it was like getting ready to return to school when I was a kid.

MeAge10.jpg  (35693 bytes)(10 years old. Isn't she cute?)

The one thing about going to a Catholic school in the 1950s is that the whole "clothes" thing was a non issue. You never had to worry about keeping up with the Joneses as far as wardrobe was concerned because we all wore uniforms.

Clothes shopping for school involved going to the 4th floor of Macy*s and to the back of the store and trying on the middy blouse to see if you needed a larger size, and sometimes getting new collars and cuffs. I believe I had 2 middy blouses--one to wear and one to wash.

The collar buttoned onto the blouse and was navy blue. There were matching cuffs that went around the cuff of the short-sleeved blouse, and then it was topped off with the navy blue sailor's tie, tied in a square not. The woolen skirt was navy blue pleats and was attached to a kind of t-shirt that hung from the shoulders. The whole look was finished off with white socks and brown Oxford shoes. Year after year,a the very same look. The boys had gray marble-looking pants and regular ties and then a navy blue sweater to wear over it.

We hated those uniforms, but there was never a single fight over who had the best outfit! We only knew who had money for fancy clothes when we were in processions in church, when we had to wear white fancy dresses.

MeBD.jpg  (67773 bytes)

This was my birthday party. I'm circled in red. Karen is in front of me. A couple of the girls must have gone home after school to change into party clothes. Poor Joseph Beluomini seems to be the only boy who came to the party!

I think we changed from middy blouses to regular white (uniform) blouses in about the 6th or 7th grade...probably because the middies didn't allow room for budding breasts. We also got to wear skirts with waistbands instead of something that hung from the shoulders.

When I went to high school, we got to wear green plaid skirts, regular blouses, and a green sweater. We also could now wear white shoes. WooHoo! And that was our uniform for four years. Again, no problem with competing outfits, and absolutely no argument about what to buy for "new school clothes."

But still there was the excitement about a new year, a new teacher, and maybe new classmates. I remember the smell of new paper products, and the lingering smell of bleach on the books because at the end of the year, we all spent time cleaning off the black marks on the edge of the pages so the used books would look as new as possible for the next class. I grew up before backpacks, so we carried our books in our arms to and from school, along with a metal lunchbox (I don't remember having a "theme" on my lunch boxes).

It was quite different when our kids went to school. They all got new clothes for the new year and looked all spiffy on the first day of school. It became a tradition to take a picture of the whole group as they left for school in the morning.

How innocently I waved them all off to school, even the littlest. Nowadays I don't think that parents let their little guys go to school by themselves. Danger, dontchaknow. I feel sorry for the grammar school kids of today. I was walking 0.8 mi to school by myself in the first grade. Our kids only had a couple of blocks to walk, but it never entered my head that anything bad might happen to them on the way.

Fortunately it never did. That happened after they grew up.


phonelady said...

I also went to catholic schools only it was in the 60s and 70's . By that time the uniforms were a little more refined and they were navy blue or black and white . I can remember having to buy a sweater for the school though . Loved the post .

Jennifer said...

Catholic school uniforms are still boring. My son wears a red or white polo and blue pants.

But that commercial made me laugh. Just what kids want to see in mid-July!

And I feel the same about riding bikes. My own son doesn't look for cars yet when he gets to an intersection, so I won't let him go on his own. But we live about a mile from his school. Once I feel like he's looking for cars, I'll totally let him ride with his friends to school.

And by the way, that photo of your kids on their bikes is awesome. I can't tell for sure, but there has to be a banana seat in there somewhere!