Imagination, Memory, Real Life, Writing

No matter what your age, it’s back to school time!

Where I live, the school year has just started. My children are grown, so I’m a bit removed from that event nowadays, but still it stirs the memory pot. During my school days the year started after Labor Day, so the real memory kickoff will come a couple of weeks from now, on the first morning with just the right slant of light and crispness to the air. Soon after, the leaves will turn and begin to fall.

There’s nothing stronger than the scent of autumn leaves crushed underfoot to take me back to the Octobers of my youth. I’m instantly transported back, scuffing my shoes through the red, gold, and brown strewn across the sidewalks on my way home from school. It’s always a sunny afternoon and I take my time, as though I’m trying to hold on to every ray before the gray days of winter set in.

Scientists say scent is the strongest link to memory, and I believe it. With one whiff of a crayon box, I’m six-years-old again. I’m wielding a fat orange crayon and trying my best to stay insides the lines of the duck’s beak. It’s lunchtime, Friday, and with the odor of fish sandwiches drifting from the cafeteria, we line up, but first stop is the restroom, where I’m greeted with the combined smells of castile soap and wet brown paper towels. Ah, sweet memories.

I associate more than smells with school, of course. The faint peppermint taste of white paste, the murmur of students shuffling though polished hallways, and the tap, scratch, and squeak of chalk on the blackboard. Speaking of blackboards—the old-fashioned slate kind—does anyone else remember the man who came around to refresh the lines? Do you remember the paint smelling like bananas? I know. I’m old, but every year around this time, it’s easy to recall the child again.

Do you have a fond school memory to share?

14 thoughts on “No matter what your age, it’s back to school time!”

  1. I also went back to school after Labor Day. Did that end or is it just a regional thing?

    I was a half hour early to pick up my daughter (because no one takes the bus anymore and the line to park is a mile long) to get a good spot, and I think I was the only one who wasn’t running the car just to have air conditioning. That was about 200 cars polluting the air for 30 minutes or more. Crazy.

    Exhaust fumes were not part of my school memories but they will be for my daughter. If school started mid Sept instead of mid August, it would be less need for AC, for both the school and the drivers.


    1. I think it ended, Tricia, because they started back a week ago in Indiana too. I don’t know why they changed things. You’re right about the AC, and the exhaust. 😦

      And THANK YOU for copying your review of Brevity to LibraryThing! It looks so sad and unloved over there with just a few reviews.


  2. That smell of soap and brown paper towels, I didn’t even realize that was a smell until now, but when I read it, Pow!

    We didn’t have lines refreshed on our black board, but we took turns, in pairs, week by week staying late after school to dust out the erasers with the weird machine in the utility room. Warm chalk dusk up in the air, everywhere and the grinding scent of that.

    My oldest is still a year shy of the back to school brigade, but last week when I walked through department stores looking for towels and toilet paper and heard parents and children laughing and bartering and begging, I realized what a crying fool I’ll be next year on this day.


    1. That smell has permeated my mental nose, Victoria. Thankfully, it’s not a stink. 😉

      Oh yes, those little ones do grow up fast. I tell my grandchildren not to be in a hurry because they’ll be adults for a LONG time. Of course, they don’t listen any more than I did.


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