OPINION: Back-to-School is the Stuff Technicolor Dreams are Made Of

Lisa Frank folders (ironypoisoning/flikr.com)

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There are so very many firsts in life. I, myself have had no shortage of them. I like the beginnings of things, not so much the middles or the ends. Like most of my friendships, relationships, or books I’ve read the introductions to … the early, infatuation stage is clearly where it’s at.

I guess you might say I have a short attention span, get bored easily, and okay, so maybe there’s a very valid reason I never did particularly well on that whole “test on this later, kids,” thing. But despite my lack of enthusiasm for memorizing the periodic table, or that riveting semester we spent on realism (I don’t think I ever truly recovered from Ethan Frome, but neither did Ethan, apparently), somehow the first day of school always felt like a fresh start for me.

Maybe it was the new shoes or the sharpened pencils or the fact that I was more interested in shopping for the supplies than actually using them, especially folders. Ladies of the 80s: Can I get a “Lisa Frank” in the house?

Frankly speaking, my girl Lisa got me through a lot of tough times. Do we all remember bangs? Talk about taking your hair to some serious heights with all that Aqua Net and L.A. Looks and the Bonne Bell lip smackers that came in every flavor known to Bonnie Tyler. It was like a total eclipse of the heart every time my mom took me back-to-school shopping. But somehow the bangs always flew south by noon and my Bonnies, they vanished like BIC pens. I swore someone was disappearing them, like the kid who sat behind of me in sixth grade who really enjoyed eating Elmer’s Glue, like a little too much. I mean, I’m a big fan of adhesives but everything in moderation, people. Talk about a sticky situation. (Kyle Harrison, if you’re reading this: I’m soooo sorry!)

I remember spending an exorbitant amount of time staring out the window. I never jumped out of it (don’t worry, first-floor only operation) but there were times, I’m not gonna lie, it seemed like a viable option. All of those new notebooks, tie-dye book covers and highlighters, (so many colors, so little time) didn’t save me from many a “Wonder Years” teacher, Trunchbull from Matilda, and women who clearly hated children but wanted good pensions and their summers off. I’m happy to report I learned exactly nothing from any of them, would easily walk over them in the street (you can finish that thought yourself) and hope there is a special place on queue for them where I will likely be waiting with a stick of fresh glue along with some novel ideas on how to use it.

One of the best teachers I ever had was actually in high school. She was a sub and I honestly think she was probably there for a grand total of six weeks. Her name was Mrs. Callihan (true story) and she used to burn incense and play Bob Dylan and talk about existentialism, which, truth be told, I’m still a little hazy on but I often feel like I’m in the middle of some sort of existential crisis here, mostly on a daily basis so I guess you could say, that’s kind of related?

Not really, but she was definitely a close second to a handful of others.

There was the English teacher who showed us Psycho for the first time on a “blood-stained” shower curtain.

And then, that red-headed gym teacher who pretended to believe I had my period every day of the month January thru June of senior year — dear woman, whose name is eluding me right now, my two left feet can’t thank you enough.

Or the nice lunch lady, who wasn’t really a teacher but should have been, who looked the other way every time I stole coffee from the staff pot.

So, let’s drop the act. Every August we wait for those class assignments to come through Powerschool, like it’ll make or break our sweet little Junie getting into Harvard. Honestly, we’ve been mostly lucky. Mr. Gallo saved fifth grade for my younger daughter.

But I think you win some, and you lose some, and for every Trunchbull there’s a Callihan, like for every missing glue stick there’s a Kyle Harrison. (Please don’t let your children eat glue!) I’m far from endorsing this, but I guess what I’m saying is that so often in life, being that big ol’ existential thing that it is, we still don’t always get the luxury of a fresh start. We don’t always get the new Lisa Frank folders or bangs that stand at attention. We don’t always get to handpick the teachers our kids “luck out on” – or ever, really (but seriously, if anyone has an in on this, just send me a PM., I’ll keep it on the DL, I promise).

I’ve never been much of a talker or listener for that matter but (what’s the date again?) Monday, Aug. 30 can’t come soon enough. Neither can that big yellow school bus. Or all those BIC pens I ordered on Amazon that will surely go missing long before the middle of September or more likely by the end of this story.

Seriously, I just love the beginnings of things.

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.