Back to school again

The start of school frenzy is pretty much over. Except for a few schools here and there, all the kiddos are back in class, complete with the requisite clothing and supplies. Conversation around our dinner table recently centered on those back-to-school supplies, and the hands-down winner for favorite school supply was a new box of crayons. And not just any box of crayons, a box big enough to have the coveted sharpener in the back. It was a toss up as to whether the smell, the sharpener, or the perfect points were the best part. I chose all three. Is it just me, or did the back-to-school ads show up a lot earlier this year? It seems like July 4th was the unwritten date for ads and displays to appear. They crowded the date this year. We’re not going to forget we need to buy these supplies if we aren’t reminded constantly.

I read an article on Facebook citing results of a survey from the National Retail Federation as to the costs of back-to-school supplies. Their final estimate was an average of $684.79 for families of children in kindergarten through grade 12. Where does your budget fall?

Number one on the list was clothing. When I was growing up, a new dress for the first day of school was paramount. I realize now what a stretch that was for my parents, but the first day always brought a new outfit. Dresses were required in those days — I never wore slacks to school until I was a freshman — and the requisite first day of school picture chronicled those new dresses. My boys, in turn, also had something new to wear that first day, along with the picture. However, buying too much in the clothing department was tempered because it was so hot at the beginning of the year long pants were not purchased and shorts were being outgrown too fast to buy too many new ones for just a few weeks.

Next on the list was electronics, which included computers and calculators. Those were obviously not a supply in my day. Honestly, the ‘coolest’ technology I ever needed was a slide rule! My grandfather was an engineer so, when the time came, he saw that I had one that was the envy of my teachers. My boys didn’t need calculators until high school and I’m not sure that they didn’t cost more than the clothing that came in at number one! By the time laptops were needed, they were on their own!

Third on the list was shoes. Again, no tennis shoes when I was young. I had a school version of the ‘Sunday school shoe’. Of course, for several years I had foot issues and had to wear the dreaded saddle shoe which, by the time I was in high school, were in style. It was quite hard to put them on again. My boys knew, and still know, that the best shoes were the ones marked ‘sale.’ I’m very grateful they were never drawn in by the expensive star-endorsed shoes. And, as all parents know, kids wear out their shoes a whole lot faster than they outgrow said shoes, no matter how much they cost!

Finally, fourth was supplies like notebooks, pencils, and backpacks. In my elementary days, the school provided all we needed so I didn’t shop for those. I remember a red, brown and white plaid book bag I once had, but that was the extent of my backpacks. My boys, however, labored long and hard over choosing just the right one. As they got older, substance became more important and I think they are both still using their high school backpacks long after high school.

May your back-to-school shopping nightmares be over and your year be smooth-sailing!

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Sue Sampson is a longtime columnist for the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.

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