Volume 18 • Issue 15 | September 01 - 08, 2005

Don’t believe the hype: The ritual begins once again

By Wickham Boyle

Whenever my son sees any back-to-school ads, whether they are the joyful skipping father loading a cart with school supplies or the carefree kids kicking up their heels in their new duds, he takes it as a personal affront.

“Why do they push this in our faces?” he says. “We all know we have to go back, but it’s as if, like celebrating Christmas in October, they start those ads sooner every year. I hate them.”

Henry doesn’t hate school, what he hates is the end of summer. O.K., he doesn’t love school, but he does LOVE summer. He was born in summer, he plays tennis, he swims, he goes camping, he loves his baggy shorts, his one-stop dressing, the peaches, the corn, the hot days and the late nights. He has loved all this since, well, I guess since his very first August, when he was born.
That August was the culmination of another one of the hottest summers on record and right after he was born, like now, the weather exhaled and released a welcome sigh of cool. And like now, right on the heels of that sigh, school started. When he was less than a month old he was strapped to me as I bicycled his sister to nursery school. I don’t know what he felt about school then, but too soon, he was standing in the schoolyard at P.S. 234 waiting for the bell to ring and the teachers to arrive and corral their charges.

Now my kids, both go off to school alone. I don’t wait in the wings any longer wondering if there will be tears or sticky waves and yet there is always that lingering hovering that comes with the start of the school year. I anticipate with them. I want to see if any of their friends will be in favorite classes. I wait to see if there will be a teacher who will ignite a spark so they discover the wonder in telling the stories that are history or the wonder of science.

Henry came home yesterday with what he called his “back-to-school” shopping. He had bought some new sneakers, “on sale, mom,” and a few T-shirts. He wasn’t gleefully carting home spiral notebooks and colored markers, but I know that after the first day he will come home with a big list and we will dutifully take it to the stationery store to tick off every item, one by one. And because we attend public schools we will also look to see what is on the teacher’s wish list and send in boxes of tissues or extra crayons. This is just what we do every year.

I know what Henry means when he says that the early ads ruin the summer for him. He wants an orderly, unhurried progression to the summer. He knows the ending to the story.

Maybe that is the deep difference between adults and children; grownups rush to the next step, perhaps because they sense its inevitability; while children want to draw the delicious drops from summers, ice cream and books. One more page, five more minutes in my bed, one more hug-kiss, another story and another languid evening up late with nothing on the list for tomorrow but sunshine, swimming and peaches. So when those ads come on, do what we do; change the channel.


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