School starts today in my area. As one of those weird kids who loved school growing up, this is a wistful day. I miss the excitement of being reunited with friends you know you'll see 5 days a week for the next nine months. I miss the tremulous anxiety over whether or not your new teacher(s) will be nice, and fair, and fun, and (once puberty hit) tall, dark, and dreamy. I miss being fed knowledge that, whether or not you'll ever actually use it in the real world, promises to deepen your understanding of how that world works.
But oddly enough, what I think I miss most of all about this time of year is buying school supplies. I know this is not normal. I've never really been normal. Most kids get excited about a trip to the toy store. As early as five or six I would get all jazzed up about stopping into Doenge's, this independently owned stationary and office supply store in downtown Wheaton that had wood floors and stained glass windows, which sadly went out of business many years ago. I would roam through the aisles that seemed so long and so tall, and ask my mom (in my sweetest voice) if I could please get a new eraser, or a box of chalk, or (if I had been especially good, or Mom was in an exceptionally good mood) maybe a set of those thick-tipped yummy-smelling markers with the pictures of fruit on them.
Even in college buying school supplies was an eagerly anticipated, almost solemn ritual. At the end of the first day of class, Allison and I would drive into Marion and stalk the aisles of Walmart for colorful items that promised to maximize our coursework and satisfy our deep proclivity to be absurdly organized.
I was at Office Depot the other day, picking up some stuff for the office, and I felt drawn to the Back to School display like a moth to the flame. It called to me, and it said, "Look! Crayola colored pencils for only 10 cents!"
I did not need colored pencils. I'm pretty sure I have some at home that I obviously haven't used recently enough to confirm their presence amongst my belongings. I picked up a box anyway. I heard them clink gently against each other in all of their shiny plastic coated glory. I admired the crispness of the box's corners, the vibrant yellow hue and the familiar green stripes. I put the box in my basket. I charged the ink cartridges and envelopes I had come for, and then I bought them with the quarter I had in my pocket.
I haven't taken them out of the box yet. In fact, they are still in the bag on the floor in my room, right next to the box of crayons I bought last August because they were on sale and because I missed school. I think I will mail them to Mali for Naomi and Ngali.
Then I think I will dig out the supply I already had, and I will color.