Posts Tagged ‘dance’

It would be great to go back to almost any year of childhood, to August–right before school starts.

I’d remind my dad that if he goes to Caldor’s on Saturday, I need to go, too, to get school supplies. He’d remember. He always remembered important things. Plus, my mother has probably mentioned it to him recently.

Caldor’s was a “discount” store. It sold housewares, toys, tools, glue, fertilizer, clothes, curtains, garden supplies, records, toiletries and seasonal items for Christmas, Easter, the four weather seasons—and school stuff. 

All the school supplies were in bins and on shelves near the front door, just past the stairs to the basement record department. Some were full; most were picked through—BIC pens (blue and black; teachers had preferences and only a teacher was allowed to use red), No. 2 pencils, boxes of Crayons, pink erasers, plastic pencil boxes or flat pouches with pinch/slide plastic closures and three rings to hook into a binder, rulers, rubber bands, and compasses. 

The smell of all this school stuff was comforting and overwhelming, second only to the smell of walking into school the first day, which was similar. 

It was comforting to know this was a new year, a new chance to shine, new things to learn, enthusiasm renewed and hope for better grades that would be more pleasing to parents and students alike. 

It was overwhelming for the same reasons. There were yearly opening statements by each teacher about what we’d study, his or her expectations of the class regarding behavior and goals to reach, and certain things that would not be tolerated. I listened carefully each time, which was more difficult as I reached junior high and had multiple teachers per day. I just wanted to get it right and have grades to prove it.

On the store shelves nearby, cardboard shipping boxes, with one side sliced off by a box cutter, revealed plastic-wrapped packages of lined, three-hole punch notebook paper—100-250 sheets per package. All of the teachers required it. Math problems were worked out, outlining a story and final composition were handed in, and lots of notes filled the pages. Another package was purchased during Christmas vacation for the second half of the school year.

Even in junior high, the back to school shopping trip wasn’t over until I took a walk over to the toy department to see the year’s Barbie doll models to ooh and aah for a nostalgic moment. 

Of course, a trip downstairs to the record department was a given. Allowance money, 50 cents per week, was used to purchase 45s at 75 cents apiece. Do the math. School shopping day was just a browsing day to check what was available and the Top 100 list for the week at the cashier’s counter.

Back upstairs, I walk purposefully back to the supplies bins to find a package of notebook dividers with different colored plastic tabs to identify each class. Dad would not be happy if we had to come back just for that—and it was required.

It wasn’t long before I discovered that the same challenges awaited me within the classroom which had been present the year before. Social challenges outside of class and school were even more daunting. I felt like I was the only one who didn’t feel in the right place or of the right mind and temperament to live in the era I was born to. 

I’d been hoping to wear a poodle skirt and cashmere sweater with anklets and saddle shoes as my older sister had and I’d seen on TV. Both were out of style before I was of age.

In junior high, we had one yearly dance. I’d go to a yearly dance first, in junior high, 
where boys stood up front as close to the band, usually consisting of local boys, as they could and girls mingled with each other. 

In high school we had weekly dances where a few boys and girls danced with each other to officially choreographed and named steps with turns and whirls. Girls wore mini skirts which prevented bending over or lifting arms while wearing a mini dress, and panty hose in place of the garter belt (or the dreaded girdle!) and stockings.

Some girls practiced flirting with their eyes and smiles while others danced a little bit of a fast dance with another girl from sheer boredom and sense of defeat.

On dance nights the gym didn’t smell like the locker room—sweat, smelly towels and stinky sneakers. Well, it did. But we didn’t notice because our noses picked up on Old Spice, Canoe and Aqua Velva men’s colognes borrowed from dads and a dabs of Jontue, Jeanne Naté, Heaven Scent or something trés French borrowed from mom.

Yet over 40 years later, all of this comes back to me—the smells, the array of three-ring binders available, the same BIC pens and No. 2 pencils, Crayons and boxes of notebook paper; the enthusiasm for new adventure with classmates. Tangible tools for a year of anticipated growing and glowing at school and fearing or flying in our social life.

The expectation–of so much newness, undiscovered secrets of the world, challenges to hungry minds and hormonally charged hearts looking outward for “that somebody for someday”–is recalled.

I hope today’s generation of students feels the same because it can last a long, long time.


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