Among Schoolchildren

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Welcome to the second installment of Back to School Week dear readers. Now that I've shared my slightly depressing Back to School memories, it's time to move on to happier (less neurotic) memories.

My favorite part of Back to School time was the shallowest part, the new clothes and the fun new pencils and notebooks. I used to plan out my outfits for the first two weeks, even going so far as to make a list of all the clothes I would wear and the shoes that would coordinate with those outfits. Then my Grandmother would come over and want to see all of our new school supplies. She was always really excited about it because she was still ever so slightly bitter about not having fun school supplies when she was a child. And then I would plan out the most important part of Back to School, my hair.

And yet, despite all of that planning, this is what I came up with for the first day of school:

Is there any way to make a better first impression than with big hair and bad 80s sweatpants? I just don't think so. And I see that I still hadn't reached the point where I was coordinating my coat and backpack to my first day of school outfit.

That picture was taken on my first day of 2nd grade. My sister started kindergarten that year, but her first day was later in the week, which meant that Mom would be taken another First-day-of-school picture, thereby giving me a chance to improve on my first-day-of-school look. But how do you improve on sweatpants that attractive, and hair that well styled?

With a hot pink sweat skirt and turquoise socks, of course. Until I found this picture in the photo album, I had forgotten that sweat skirts ever existed (the brain does tend to blot out painful details.)

And I see that I wisely went with hair up this time around (I was under the false impression that it made me look much more mature.)

Just looking at the picture with me holding that hideous lunchbox makes me smile, because it reminds me of the happy face napkins notes my Mother would always put in there. My Mother might very well have been the only Mother on earth who was genuinely sad when the school year started and her kids went back to school. She was always sad, and said how much she missed us - so she would leave napkin notes in our lunch box that had big happy faces on them with "Have a Happy Day" written in big letters on the top, or she would draw a stick person who had big tears falling down its face with the words "I Miss You," written on it. She did that every single time that I took a lunch to school.

Today's book, "Mrs. Zajac is feisty, funny, and tough. She likes to call herself an "old-lady schoolteacher." (She is thirty-four.) Mrs. Zajac spends her working life "among schoolchildren." To some it might seem a small world, a world of spelling and recess and endless papers to correct. But we soon realize that Mrs. Zajac's classroom is big enough to house much of human nature."

I didn't like today's book at all - and coming after yesterday's book, on such a similar subject, it was an even bigger disappointment. Despite the book description's claim that Mrs. Zajac is feisty (and by the way, I really hate that word) and fun - I just didn't see it. I didn't connect to her at all, or any of the people in the book, I didn't care what happens next and I spent most of the day looking forward to the last page. But, because I always feel guilty saying nothing but bad things about a book, I'm going to say something nice - I liked the cover.

There were a few random parts that were slightly less boring than the rest of the book (I can't quite make that leap to calling them interesting, and yet I'm still going to write about them here and bore you with it):

  • I was slightly less bored during the part that discussed Mrs. Zajac's childhood experience of being reprimanded for trying to write with her left hand. - I'm still bitter about my teachers trying to force me to write with just my right hand (I used to use both) because it would come in so handy now, I could keep writing long past the point when my hand gets tired . . . but nooooo, I had to have a teacher who was on a kick about how everyone had to write with only my right hand. About two years ago I attempted to learn to write with my left hand again - and it gave me a whole new respect for young children who are first learning to write. It was beyond frustrating, and I never got any better at it, and I finally gave up and decided that my time could be better used by watching reruns of The Brady Bunch. And, as I'm sure you all know, I'm all about not wasting time on pointless things that don't matter.

  • I also temporarily woke up from my literary-induced coma during the part that talked about Mrs. Zajac's childhood dream of driving a station wagon, "As a girl, Chris had imagined herself driving such a car, a station wagon equipped with children. She had foreseen a bigger one with wood on its sides, like the cars that mothers drove on the wholesome TV shows of her youth." - I can completely respect that part about the children, but a station wagon? Really? That's the saddest thing I've ever heard. It reminds me of that awful Leann Rimes song about a woman who dreamed about driving a mini-van. Every time I hear that song I think, That's what she dreamed about, driving a mini van? Some people need to get more interesting dreams. Station wagons and mini-vans are not something a person should dream about driving, that's like dreaming about living in a really small house, or having really unattractive kids and a husband who never does his fair share of the laundry. Station wagons and mini-vans are the kind of vehicle that you reluctantly end up driving because it's what people with kids do. If you're going to dream then have the decency to dream about something cool.

So, in conclusion, I definitely would not recommend reading this book. . . or dreaming about driving a mini-van or station wagon.