Remember When- Back To School
Yesterday my girlfriend and I headed out to the mall. She wanted to get new earrings and a gift for her parents, so I decided to go along for the ride. When we got there, it was absolutely packed. I had kinda figured that it was due to the crappy weather. Then I couldn't help but notice that there were more kids than usual in every single store. Parents were chasing their kids in and out of the shoe stores, and passing them handfuls of clothes through a halfway opened fitting room door. It was at that point when it hit me: it was back to school season. I had seen all of the ads on TV, but I suppose I just ignored them. Words can only say so much sometimes, and you need to physically see it to acknowledge it. Then I came to the realization that I was not going back to school.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, there is no back to school for me. Not for nothing, but it really did hit me like a ton of bricks. You get so used to doing certain things every year, like a birthday or an anniversary, and this was no different to me. Back to school was something I was accustomed to, and it was kinda scary and kinda sad to know that those days are behind me. It's scary because it signifies the beginning of the rest of your life. When you're a student, whether it be in elementary school or college, your status always seems to be your excuse for everything. You can have a part time job, but still keep time to yourself because "you're a student". You can be responsible but still let loose and have fun because you are "STILL a student". Now those days are long behind, and you can only hope to God that whatever job you have, you love.
Honestly, I've always been a very responsible person, so for me, it's more sad than it is scary. It's sad because it all went way too fast. Sometimes, I feel as if I got cheated out of time. Let's be real: no one wants to grow up. Or maybe, it's not until AFTER they grow up that they realize that they don't want to. I've said it before- when you're a kid you want to be an adult, and vice-versa. And to me, the saddest part (and the reason I feel cheated) is because all I wanted to do was grow up, and sometimes I feel like I grew up too fast. As well, I also didn't recognize how great it was being a kid. Not to sound too old, but we were always told "these are the greatest days of your life", and we always called it BS. The truth is, those were the best days, and I never appreciated it, not until it was too late. In this episode, I want to touch upon a few specific times that stick out in my mind when it comes to going back to school. I also want to talk about the usual back to school shopping that we all had to go through. It's that time now where I ask you- Remember When back to school ruled our lives?
Then I started looking back on "back to school", and I had to smile. In fact, I remember the day my mother registered me for elementary school. I was 5 years old and had been in pre-school since the age of 3. I had fun back then. All I did was play all day, which is really all that pre-school is. At best, we learned 2+2=4 and the ABCs. The day that my mom registered me was the first time I had ever been inside a real school. We went into the main office and my mom, along with a few other parents, was talking to our Principal, Mr. K. I didn't have a care in the world, and I had no idea what was happening to me. All I knew was that I was playing Legos with a bunch of kids who I had never met before.
To me, the place was tremendous. It was one of the biggest buildings I had ever seen. When my mom explained that I would be starting school there in the next few weeks, I was overcome with joy. All I knew was that the place had a big gym, a boss playground, and already I had played with Legos, so I knew it couldn't be that bad. Not to mention that in pre-school, our small classroom was filled with toys. This place was massive and had two floors, so it's nothing short of a Toys R' Us. And the idea of meeting new kids and making more friends was more than I could have ever imagined. And it gets better: all of my friends from pre-school were going to be there! Score! Then she explained that it wasn't going to be quite like that. She told me about assignments and homework, and suddenly I wasn't very excited about it.
Then the day came: First Day of School. Now despite the fact that I had no interest in being there, I wasn't at all like the other kids who didn't want to be there. I didn't cry or pout or beg for my parents. I kinda just went and kept my mouth shut about it. My mom dropped me off in front of the building, and I got on line to enter the class with people who would affect me for the next 20 years. I met two guys, Travis and Andy, and we hit it off immediately. We all loved Batman and WWF, and we spent many days in the cafeteria, talking toys over Hi-C. Now we discuss jobs and debt over beer, but we still have our toys.
I enjoyed kindergarten for the most part (except for one cry baby that would get me in trouble so often my teacher sent weekly reports to my parents). I mean, once you adjust to everything, it isn't so bad, and you only went for half the day so I was usually home by 12:30. That school was pretty great, although I didn't realize it until later (we'll touch upon it). I was exposed to so many different things like school plays, talent shows, a Computer room, and 5 years of awesome teachers (I attended school there for 6 years, but I hated Mrs. UnhappyWithMyLife as we'll call her). I learned a lot in that place, and I had a really good reputation with the teachers and the Principal. I can credit that to my parents who were always involved with the PTA.
I didn't appreciate it until the last day of fifth grade. Summer vacation was coming and so was Junior High School. We had a moving up ceremony that morning, and all of our families and teachers came out for it. Basically, this was kiddie graduation. Now, our school had this horrendous theme song, which they still have to this day. I mean, this thing is pure cheese. We sing about how we sing and laugh and learn all of the time, and how much we love our teachers. The truth is of course we did, but you don't understand that as a 9 year old, but regardless, cheese. Every time we sang this song we felt dumb. I'm honestly surprised that our parents didn't laugh at us every time we did this at a recital. Now for about 3 years we had been singing this new smash hit, and we were instructed to sing it at the end of the ceremony.
The end of the ceremony came and we all began to sing it, and honestly, I think we all knew that this was the last time we would be doing so. Everyone seemed to have a sense of pride when we sung it that final time. I talked to a few people after and we all had concluded that we were happy we got to sing that stupid song one last time. We didn't appreciate it until that day. Maybe because we had finally realized how cool the place was. Maybe it was because we were scared about going into middle school, but regardless, it wasn't until the last day that we knew what we had. The old saying of "don't know what you've got til it's gone" definitely applies.
I remember the first day of middle school with feeling of excitement and fear. I was excited because you would actually move from classroom to classroom and have to follow a schedule, which seemed to break the day up a little. I was excited because we had a dance every month, or as we called it, a canteen. We also had sports teams that we could play for and represent the school. But the idea of "little fish in a big pond" definitely put some fear in all of us, since we were used to being the all mighty fifth graders. When I arrived at the school, we were all standing outside waiting to go in. thankfully, we had been given a tour of the place a few weeks prior, so we knew where we were going. This was the point in time where you would meet new kids from the other schools and make new friends. I saw a kid who had been on my little league team for a few years, and I went over to saw hello. Instead when I arrived, he screamed an obscenity in my face.
That seemed poignant when I looked back upon middle school. For most of us, it was terrible. Maybe that added to the fear as well. My father told me that middle school was going to be the roughest three years of my educational career, and he wasn't kidding. You get a bunch of bratty, hormone filled know-it-alls with an attitude problem, and confine them into one space. Popular and unpopular was becoming a force that gained strength with every day of those three years. I was more or less caught in the middle, which is where I think you should be. In the case of junior high, it's good to be neutral. That period of time in my life was all but useless. I had gotten into a heated fight with my best friend (who thankfully remains one of my best friends to this day), which knocked a good year and a half from our friendship. I didn't have any dates or girlfriends despite my every attempt, and I hated nearly every single teacher I had. I desperately missed the fifth grade, and couldn't get to high school fast enough. The only things that made middle school worth while was meeting one of my very best friends for the first time, and finally getting some recognition with a band I was in (we played AC/DC's TNT at the talent show, and turned the student body on to a new form of music).
Then High School finally came, and a wave of relief overcame me for a few reasons. The main thing was that I was out of middle school, which was worth its weight in gold. The other reason is because it's around this point in time that you start thinking about college and what it would be like to go away. Still, there was a sense of fear. What had held back my reputation in middle school more than anything else was my taste in music. I loved classic rock, KISS being my favorite band to this day. When kids are that young and Eminem and Limp Bizkit are the biggest acts around and you come rocking a copy of Love Gun, they typically don't understand why, and rather than asking you why you prefer such music, they give you crap and put you on blast. But I never gave in to them and always figured that "They'll learn someday". On the first day of high school I was wearing a Blue Oyster Cult shirt, not knowing how it would go over. Then I had a senior come up to me, pat me on the back and compliment me on it. I knew things were going to be OK.
High School was pretty cool for me. Again, I was in the middle of the pack, but seeing as kids were a lot more laid back and didn't care about status as much, I seemed to lean more in a positive light. I was a varsity letterman by the end of my freshman year, and things seemed to be better. The next three years flew, and then came my big move to Florida. I was going to school in Tampa, and had moved all of my stuff in to my dorm. I was happy and excited; my dad wasn't. He used my putter as a hammer to hang something on the wall and I got mad at him. He left the campus with the rent-a-car, therefore stranding my mom and brother, then he and I didn't talk for about a month. I said goodbye to him mid-August, then didn't see him or talk to him until Columbus Day weekend. It wasn't a good time to remember, but it is indeed a time to remember.
Alright, now comes the most boring part of being a kid- Back to school shopping. Holy crap, I'm convinced that the clocks move their slowest while you are shopping for your back to school apparel. Let's be real here: it's the summer time and you're supposed to be riding your bike, playing baseball, hanging out with your friends, sleeping in and swimming. Wasting a day in the store wearing clothes that your mom picks out is not my idea of fun by any means. And because you are forced to go during a time of the year that is so precious, and seeing that you're wearing clothes that you don't want to wear, the time REALLY seems to drag on. Clothes shopping was definitely the worst part, mostly because every store is having a sale so you need to check out every place. Your moms and dads are irritated because they've got to drive you to all of these places, deal with the lines and the traffic, pay for all of this crap, and try to tolerate a couple of whiny kids who want nothing to do with this safari of misery. This only makes the day worse.
I touched on the stores being pack a few seconds ago. Do you remember that torture? First you had to dig through a trashed store and find things in your size. Then you need to take 18 shirts, 34 pairs of pants and 396,437,448,Niner37,469 pairs of shoes into a three foot fitting room, put all of it on, walk out of this closet looking like a miserable stooge, get mom's input, then repeat. Now every person in the store is doing the same exact thing, which can really eat up time. Then you typically knock it down to two shirts and two pairs of jeans, and you get on line which typically takes a half an hour to get through. What a waste of god damn time! Three hours in the store to do ten minutes of actual shopping. Then it's off to the next store.
And who can forget back to school supplies shopping. Remember how you'd get your supply list which consisted of the same crap every year, yet the teacher insisted it all be brand new? Yeah, we all had to do that. Now I can only speak for myself, but I kinda enjoyed this shopping. The reason being is because we'd go to Staples and the line would literally wrap around the store. So my mom would get on the line and send my brother and me to get everything we needed. So we would get a cart and fill it with the things that WE wanted. We would pick out our trapper keepers, pencils, scissors, pencils cases, erasers etc. we got our favorite teams/characters/colors, stack em up in the cart and find our mom. By this point she was usually 3 people back on the line, and if she didn't like what we grabbed, too bad! There was no way in hell she was getting off the line, and we didn't have enough time to get what we wanted us to. Score one for me and little brother. It was also fun because we would always fun into our friends there, so we would make this excursion into a game of Supermarket Sweep, and run through the aisles grabbing stuff as fast as we could. We always had fun with that one.
As you get older, you tend to do less of the clothes shopping, and the supplies hunt dwindles down. You could care less what color your binders are, and you're usually using the same crap from last year anyway. Maybe you head out for two or three things, but most of the thrill is gone. This is the first time in nearly twenty years that I won't be doing this to any capacity, and you know what? I miss it a little bit. I miss the cool trapper keepers and erasers. Despite the fact that clothes shopping was an experience that rivals funerals and cheesy sex-ed videos, it wasn't all that bad. We got new kicks to rock the entire year, and we never had to pay for a lick of it. That isn't so bad after all. Most of all, I miss being a kid with no responsibilities further than "get your homework done you so can play Nintendo". I suppose that's what it all boils down to right?
Remember when you went back to school? Remember the shopping, and the excitement and disappointment that came with summer's end? What was it like for you? What were your stories? Thanks for sticking with me through this lengthy article. I hope you all enjoyed it.
Later Retro Junkies.