Remember When: Back To School Edition

One of the things I kept from thinking about during the summer was returning to school in September. It was the furthest thought in my mind and if it surfaced I quickly extinguished it and thought about something else. However, during the last 2 weeks of August the ritual for returning to school reared its ugly head. I did all I could to avoid having to go near the school during summer. It was empty, closed and void of life from June to September. Even the nuns weren’t seen in the summer, except when I saw them on Sunday in church.

The first signs of going back to school started with the displays of new school supplies and back to school clothing sales. Although they started right after the 4th of July, I didn’t pay any attention to them until my Mom started taking me to them in earnest. Giant Tiger was where we went to shop for the bargains. She never really brought me what I wanted to wear, and everything else she brought me were 2 sizes bigger so I could “grow into them” over the school year. Then there were the “hand me downs” that were passed on from sibling to sibling. Sometimes they were treasures and sometimes not.

When my thoughts did turn to going back to school, I began to wonder about many things. Who would be my new teacher, would I be in a double class, would there be any new kids starting in my grade, and most important, who might I not see when I go back. Often families moved during the summer and the kids were sometimes the last to know they were moving.  You might not found out until the day school started who wouldn’t be coming back that year.

When the day finally arrived (traditionally the day after Labor Day) I resigned myself to the fact that summer was over and I would be in a new grade, have a new teacher and new life experiences. Everyone always went back to our old grade room and teacher first, and then we moved as a class to the new room to meet our new teacher. It was then our worst fears would be confirmed or denied. Some teachers were believed to be stricter than others so our anticipation rested on their laurels and reputations.

After settling in we were given our textbooks, workbooks, class schedule and a list of required school supplies that we would need for the coming year. It seemed like we were taking 9 or 10 subjects by the time we received all those textbooks. I could almost feel the homework pains as I wrote my name in each of the books I would own. If it was a Sacramental year (Penance, Holy Communion, or Confirmation) I was a little more excited because this meant I would be having a memorable religious experience to look forward to in the coming months. This excluded Penance (Confession) of course, since that was a ritual that haunted me throughout my life and I experienced almost weekly. Returning to school meant returning to the infamous “examination of conscience” and even more frequent Confessions.

No one could cover an “examination of conscience” better than our beloved Sisters. It usually took place on a Friday afternoon. We had to clear our desks and put our heads down while the Sister read from this book that contained the 10 Commandments and every single sin that could be committed against them.  Because we had Mortal, Actual and Venial Sins that meant the possibilities for committing sins were immense. Because thinking about sinning counted, it was easy to rack up large numbers of them without even trying. We didn’t have calculators back then so we had to be good at math to keep track. Anyway the good news was after you went to Confession your sins were erased. Besides being good for the soul, it helped keep you in line, and going always gave you an opportunity to start over.

Returning to school also marked milestones for us. Especially when we reached puberty and started our middle school years. I always felt we were blessed by not having to leave St Casismir’s to attend a middle school (junior high). We had the safety and sanctity to stay right where we were until high school. Adolescence can’t be stopped, but only temporarily delayed. It came soon enough and memories of grade school lived on and prepared us to meet life head on, with a good set of values and faith.