Kids are heading back to school.
The signs are everywhere. Three for a dollar notebooks. Sales on scissors and index cards and crayons. Somehow this still adds up to 80 or a hundred bucks. It's the calculators that used to push me over the edge. And the teacher requests for expensive lotion-infused tissues. I don't buy that kind of tissues for my own home.
[side note: someone told me that teachers request lotion-y tissues because said tissue is better at cleaning whiteboards than the cheapo tissue. I don't know if this is true but it made me feel less resentful about springing for the multiple boxes on the school supply list--but not less resentful that parents have to purchase this stuff in the first place. In my day, schools didn't expect parents to buy packages of loose leaf paper and scissors and glue. In my day bluh bluh bluh. Yeah. I know. I sound like a crochety old fogie.]
Anyway, what was I talking about?
Oh. Right. Back to school.
So, for the first time in sixteen years I don't have a kid going back to school.
I have a son who's been away at college and a daughter about to go. She and I are not shopping for erasers and binders and pricey Kleenex. We are shopping for shower caddys and sheets and microwaves.
Fun fact: thirty years ago I was heading off to college.
I packed up a couple of suitcases and a trunk of winter clothes that I didn't end up digging into that much. Turned out that the Connecticut girl in Tennessee discovered little use for her winter coat and hat and mittens.
Before I moved into my dorm room, my mother and I went shopping. She bought me a small rug. A bedside lamp. A framed picture that I thought was artsy and sophisticated. A phone. (Which I used as much as my winter coat. It cost money to dial anywhere outside the college.)
My 18-year-old self was terrified and excited. Anxious and eager. Shy and confident.
The first week or two I was homesick. Not for home exactly. But for something--anything--familiar. I was a Northerner (people actually referred to me as a Yankee) at a Southern school. A poor girl surrounded by mostly wealthy kids. I was a fish out of water.
But I quickly morphed into a new fish, a new self. Maybe the self I was always meant to be. Going away turned out to be the best thing I ever did and set me off on a path I'd never have discovered if I hadn't had the courage--and privilege--to go.
I met my husband at that school. Twelve years later we had a baby girl.
Next week we'll pack up the car and take this darling girl to that same college. --I promise my husband and I did not pressure her!! -- She has tons more clothes than I ever did. She's smarter. Prettier. She's got a lovely set of monogrammed towels.
She is terrified and anxious and shy.
She is excited and eager and confident.
Me, on the other hand...