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August 14, 2005 - 11:19 pm


So. School starts for the kids tomorrow. We went to orientation on Friday and went shopping for supplies this weekend, and with that I was taken right back to my own grade school days.

I couldnít WAIT for school to start every year. I was such a complete nerd.

We didnít have a lot of money when I was growing up, but my mom always went all out when it came to school supplies. Weíre talking the 64 pack of crayons with the built-in sharpener, the Trapper Keeper with all the flaps and folders and the pictures of puppies on the front cover, the wooden ruler with the metal edge, the Holly Hobby lunchbox, the whole bit. Remember those old metal lunch boxes with the wire arm that held the thermos in place? Invariably the smell of bananas ended up permeating the thing and never left. And, no matter how many times you washed it, the thermos perpetually smelled like chicken noodle soup.

Because the smells are what do it best. I walk into the kidsí school and the smell that hits me immediately takes me right back to that little desk with the dried clumps of glue on the top. Itís exactly the same as it ever was. So are the lunchroom smell, the gym smell, and the library smell. THAT was my favorite one of all: the smell of library books. Of course I lived in the public library all summer, but there was a difference in the smell of the public library books and the school library books. Only a real geek could tell. And remember that school supply smell? Itís a combination of pencils, crayons, erasers and notebook paper. Ah, notebook paper. The smell of that blank paper with the pale blue lines always made me so excited and nervous, it practically begged me to write or draw on it.

Sure I was nerdy and really liked school, but I think the real reason I loved going back to school was more because it was like a new start every year, like hitting the ďresetĒ button on the Atari joy stick. New stiff leather Buster Browns, new dresses, new teachers and classrooms. It was one of the earliest lessons, reinforced every fall, on putting the past behind and trying again, starting over with more experience this time, learning from last yearís mistakes and building on last yearís math. It was exciting and full of promise, as if anything could happen.

As if anything could happen. Remember that? Iíve missed that feeling for a long, long time now.

Itís only natural that at a certain point in life things become predictable, more routine. I remember the kids were about 2 and 3 when it hit me that now, whenever I go out at night with friends or even to work during the day, there is no anything can happen anymore. There would be no spontaneous all-night drives down to Tybee Island. There would be no blowing off work for beers and pool at a dive bar, no last call at the after hours transvestite club. Every day, every night, from now on would end the same way. I will always have to come home.

That was a hard thing to get used to, but I settled in and tried to get comfortable knowing how every day would end. I almost did it, too, and I think I could have if my marriage had been better. We could have been content and made our own adventures, good ones, not the scary detention hall ones we were running from from day one. But it didnít work out that way.

So I'm figuring out that I donít need school to start to press that internal reset button we all have. You can decide for yourself that summerís over and walk into that building in the fall in a new pair of Buster Browns. And this time youíll know which bus to ride home in the afternoon and which lunch lady gives the biggest serving of dessert. Youíll know where the caterpillars make their nests on the playground and how to build a model of Machu Picchu out of plaster of paris. Youíll know where the teachersí lounge is and how far the sun is from the earth. Youíll know that algebra is only addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

But you still have to decide what to put on that blank piece of paper.


reading -Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
viewing -Napolean Dynamite
listening -ďHog WildĒ by Half Japanese

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