Thursday, July 10, 2014


Yesterday I went to my local discount store for a short list of necessities. Necessities are likely to be augmented by an item or two that won’t break the budget but will please me in some way.
Such as: School Supplies!

It’s that time, folks—photocopied lists of supplies for each grade of public school—four short aisles, stuffed full, devoted exclusively to the needs (and desires) of shoppers who have elementary school children. Or, people like me.
Desert or Jungle?
A little impulse....
I was early, so no one could elbow me aside to get at the crayons (Camo Whammo! By Crayola), compass for drawing circles of any size up to a 12” diameter, or Fiskars blunt-tip scissors (with a safety sheath—and stickers!) in purple. To hold all these treasures, I found a small pencil box—plastic nowadays, alas (back in the day, they were cardboard, and we called them cigar boxes—because they were). Three-ring binders didn’t call my name, nor notebook paper, tabbed dividers, report folders. But my hand lingered over the Sketch Diary—such a pretty cover! And that lovely slightly rough paper ideal for pencil drawings. My fingers itched to create something on the empty pages. Very tempting. Then I remembered I already have several sketch books at home, various sizes, so I probably could wait for another year on that item.

What I did buy (besides the little items that fit neatly in the plastic box), were spiral notebooks—four of them, one-subject, 70 sheets each, roughly 9x12 inches. They’re ideal for making notes for my stories, writing scenes, or sometimes jut noodling ideas. And I bought one composition book (the kind we used in college a few decades ago) for my daily journal. I have a stash of these—different colored covers, or covers with different designs in black and white—but it’s always good to have an extra. You know, just in case.
What has any of this to do with Rites of Passage? I’m glad you asked. If your memory is still functioning, you’ll recall that once upon a time school supplies were strictly allocated per grade. In first grade—thick pencils about a half-inch in diameter, that filled a small fist trying to make the loops and slashes that turned into words; a very wide-ruled tablet for the little fist to practice those words; and an eraser, for the inevitable error.

Fast forward to fourth grade—talk about your rite of passage! We got to write (yes, cursively write) with fountain pens! And real ink! That was my first real intimation that I might, someday, be included in the adult world. Grownups wrote with ink and fountain pens. Teachers. Parents. The lady at the bank.
Much later, probably junior high (middle school to you younger folks), more freedoms were bestowed on us. We could actually choose our own three-ring binders, write all over the outside if we wanted to. Sadly, by the time I entered seventh or eighth grade, the ubiquitous ball point pen had come into being. I hung on to my fountain pens through several more decades; but eventually it became difficult to get quality ink and I retired my favorites to a drawer where I can visit them on occasion. And I still search for top-of-the-line ink for those precious pens.

Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren are experiencing rites of passage in the electronic age: second grade, iPads; fourth grade, tablets; sixth grade, laptops. All supplied by the school, with rental supplied by the parents. Inevitable, I suppose. After all, the world has become electronic in character. And my inner child sighs a little for the days of thick pencils and wide-lined tablets.
I still get a warm feeling, though, when I see little folks with big crayons in their fists coloring the placemats in restaurants. I wonder if any of them have Camo Whammo?



  1. Submit to the urge! It's a great one!

  2. Every year before school starts, Kari and I brave the school supplies aisles at Walmart with carts. I buy whatever she says she needs. I've done this since the year she started teaching and even though it helps her (It's amazing what teachers buy out of their pockets) it's also just fun.

  3. Our inner child needs to play once in a while. Glad you reminded us of your annual adventure...I'll think of you every time I pass the white paste and colored markers!