God, I love back to school season. I start getting into the spirit of the season when emails from Staples land in my inbox with daily deals for penny pencils and fifty cent reams of paper. Then my heart thrills in Target to see the signs that say something like “Dorm Central This Way!” I don’t buy the penny pencils or decorate with dorm decor (much anymore, that is—every now and then I can’t help a kitschy desk lamp with spangles!), but I still love the feeling of possibility that new school supplies suggest. This year I will be organized! This year will be the best!
Even as I put off making my schedule of readings and assignments, even as I wonder a little anxiously whether or not I’ll bond with these new fresh faces, the commercial spirit of the season revives me, whether or not I buy anything. That’s how I know I’m American, when shopping inspires the old sacred faith of changing seasons. Plus, certain kinds of pencil cases and tiny magnetic clocks can be a real bitch to find other times of year.
But wouldn’t you know it, even as I carried four cotton shower curtains that I was considering making into curtains for my office back to Target’s shower curtain section because I found surprisingly reasonable real curtains, I saw a student who took my classes both semesters last year. His face lit up to see me (as I’m sure mine did in return, but I couldn’t see my own, and probably would shriek to see the crown of fuzzy curls that for once in my life I let myself leave the house with). His face lit up to see me! His batty old teacher. The young woman who was his companion leaned into the aisle with a sneer that seemed to say, Who’s my man looking at like that? and then seeing threatless me politely gave us space to catch up. The young man leaves in a week to go the University of South Alabama (or “South” as I grew up calling it) in my hometown of Mobile. It’s unlikely that I would have taught him again at Alabama State since I teach only freshman comp, but I told him to stay in touch, and I mean it.
This morning, my thoughts are especially with those bright and hardworking students I bonded with last year. I hope they all do stay in touch, and I’m looking forward to meeting my new classes a little bit more with those students in mind. This year will be the best! And I’m going to be so organized!