I’ve been wracking my brain for a single memory narrative and I keep getting distracted by all the Back to School advertising flooding the internet, my junk email box, my not-junk email box, and Kohl’s, where I went last week, not to buy back to school supplies but because I bent down to tie a child’s shoe at the Vacation Bible School program we were running at Now Church last week (about which I suspect I shall be writing more anon), and the knees of my jeans ripped, and Kohl’s is the only store which sells Levi’s in Long sizes in this part of New England settled years ago by Armenians and French Canadians, groups neither of which are known for their height, unlike Scandinavian/German-background me. (Should I have warned you about the run-on sentence ahead of time, or . . . ?)
So anyway, I’ve been thinking of Back to School in general, and almost missing it. It was fun to pick out new pencils and, after fourth grade, pens, and then after sixth grade, folders and ringbinders. With Snoopy on them. Snoopy wasn’t really very cool in the 80’s, but then, neither was I, and I liked him.
Then, of course, there were the clothes. In Honduras, we had uniforms–forest green trousers, or skirts, or jumpers (not British jumpers–American jumpers), and green gingham shirts. I’m pretty sure my mother made mine. But once we got to the States, we had to do real Back to School shopping for our clothes, even. I remember a striped turtleneck, which I would have liked much better as a young adult than I did as an eight-year-old, and this uncomfortable but semi-casual blue dress. I was unfamiliar with the concept of changing out of school clothes after I got home, and one day shortly after we moved into our first house in New England, I went to play with the neighbour girls I had met, two houses down, and they asked me if I always wore dresses. At the time I didn’t even like dresses, and their question seemed almost offensive. I never wore a dress over there again. A year or two later, though, I did learn to pluck a chicken there. In jeans. (Me, not the chicken.) The chicken plucking didn’t phase me because a few years before, in Honduras, we had gone on a field trip to a poultry farm and seen how the chickens run around even after their heads have been cut off, which fascinated more than repelled me at the time.
Also when we moved back to the States, we had to go shopping for shoes. TheBro and I needed at least one pair of dress shoes and one pair of sneakers (trainers/tennis shoes/whatever you call them in your particular part of the world) a piece. I don’t remember the shoes I ended up with. I just remember the Stride Rites. A few years before, when we were in the States visiting my grandparents, I really got into watching Captain Kangaroo. Stride Rite always advertised during Captain Kangaroo, and they were running an ad campaign in which a boy wearing their sneakers runs out of the door of his house and suddenly lifts off the ground and starts flying. (I looked for this on YouTube, for your viewing pleasure, but it’s not there.)
When we were shoe shopping in the States for the first time, my mother said, “Why don’t we try the Stride Rites?”
“Um,” I said shyly, “I’m a little nervous about the flying.”
Then I had to explain the commercial.
“Oh, honey,” said my mom, “That’s just imaginary. You won’t really be able to fly.”
I’m not sure whether I was more relieved or disappointed.