There are some things I can get on board with as an adult. Drinking can be fun. Driving is cool. (PSA alert: Never do these two things at the same time. I don’t want to be sued for advocating poor life choices.) I can also appreciate walking right into a rated R movie with no hassle. Remember the days when you had to beg someone to buy you a rated R movie ticket? I think the last time I did that it was to see The Piano. Alas, I was a lame child. I can only hope some teen punk asks me to buy a ticket for him one day so I can attempt to redeem myself as a cool adult.

But I definitely miss some aspects of my youth. Jumping balls. Sit ‘N’ Spins. Monkey bars. The first day of school… The first day of school? Correct. Your eyes are not deceiving you. I liked school.

Summer was just okay for me. I loved our overcrowded, guaranteed to be filled with kiddie pee, public pool the same as anybody else. Riding my bike all over town was tolerable until I was sweaty and cranky and lost. Catching fireflies at night was probably the most fun, but I cringe to think how many I inadvertently killed by smashing them upon capture or leaving the innocent to sit and suffocate in a poorly ventilated jar. Those fun memories aside, I cannot tell a lie – my favorite day of summer was always the day I got my packet from school in the mail. Fo’ reals.

That packet was monumental; its contents would determine your future happiness for the next nine months. The million-dollar question: What teacher did I get? Was it the cool teacher? The mean teacher? Or the “I guess s/he’s okay” teacher? Though I had absolutely no say regarding to whom I was assigned, somehow that teacher reflected my own coolness factor for the next year. It wasn’t fair, but then again most parts of growing up aren’t.

After I had calmed down from either the exhilaration or despair that inevitably followed, it was time to call all my little friends to see whom they got. That was even more stressful. If I had the lame teacher, but my best friend had the awesome one, well… awkward. Sure, I wanted to be happy for them, but obviously I wasn’t. More importantly, not having my friends in the same class would mean that we probably wouldn’t be friends at all that year. Sure, you could still see them at recess – which we had up to three times a day – but still… Your friendships for the next nine months would be based mostly on the twenty or so kids with whom you shared a room seven hours a day, five days a week. Finding out that your BFF had another teacher was like finding out your boyfriend cheated on you. Perhaps the relationship could weather such a storm, but chances were slim. Better to cut your losses and move on. Besides, there was always a chance of reconciliation the following year.

Getting that packet in the mail also meant it was time to hit up the ‘rents for all kinds of fun stuff. Just like any other girl I loved to shop for clothes – The Children’s Place was my shopping Mecca from the ages of seven to ten – but I got high just cruising the grocery store’s school supply aisle. Lisa Frank, how I miss your psychedelic rainbows and unicorns. I would spend hours – or as long as I could negotiate until my dad’s patience ran out – perusing the pencils and folders and binders at Jewel, carefully picking out my accessories for that fall. As everyone knows, having a cool lunchbox was just as important as having a cool teacher.

Then came the final weeks of waiting. This is why I could never sleep the night before the first day of school. My anticipation had grown to unbearable proportions, yet there were still so many unanswered questions. Namely, what other kids would be sharing my bus ride that year? Climbing those steps and taking that first look around was a surreal experience every time. I had mere seconds to scan the entire length of the bus and calculate my next actions. Did I have any friends here? Would I have to sit with a stranger? Or even worse, would I have to sit alone? But then there are the moments for which you can never be prepared. Case in point: The year my regular bus was switched out for a short bus. In the name of all that is holy… Nothing is worse than showing up to school in a short bus.

Regardless, I still miss those days. No matter the anxiety and agony suffered prior to the beginning of school, all was forgotten once I walked into that classroom. Yet as adults we really don’t have anything like that anymore. Days run into weeks run into months run into years. Time just keeps ticking away. Sure, there are some special events for which we count down – weddings, births, a new season of So You Think You Can Dance – but those thrills are few and far between. And living in Los Angeles can seriously make you think like you’re in your own version of Groundhog Day. In a town with nary a season change – a rainy afternoon is considered so momentous it takes up most of the nightly news – everyday feels the same. Since finishing school, I rarely consider what September means for the under eighteen crowd. Usually I’m just reminded that the Cubs season is over. (Then again, I sometimes realize that in August. Or July.) But then I’ll catch one of those “back to school” commercials, and surge of envy spikes through my veins. I suddenly yearn for a shiny new Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox to call my own, and I linger just a bit longer at Target to check out the sweet new Crayola markers in stock.

Then I drive home, melancholy and… thirsty. But I’m not resigned to choose between just juice, milk or water. Nope. Instead, I make myself a gin and tonic – and a gin and tonic trumps a Capri Sun any day of the week. So I suppose there are one or two perks to this whole “being an adult” thing.

Photo courtesy of Darren Hester

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4 Responses to “I Love The Smell Of Chalk In The Morning”

I’m so impressed that you’re able to remember all this stuff!

September 10th, 2010

LOL – impressed, or a tiny bit weirded out? Having gone to the same school for 13 years, some memories just stick. 🙂

September 10th, 2010

Let’s go “back-to-school” shopping this weekend! For real, I need new shoes for work.

September 13th, 2010

Done! Can we pick up some markers while we’re at it?

September 13th, 2010