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Back to Autumn

An annual trifecta of events marks the change of seasons in West Deptford.

The season of change is upon us. Oh, sure, the pool is still up, the Mister Softee truck still makes its nightly rounds and our tans are just beginning to peal. But like it or not, summer’s over.

Its unofficial ending, no doubt, was on Thursday, Sept. 7—the day West Deptford Schools reopened for the 2012-13 school year.

The days are still hot, and the first official day of autumn isn’t until September 22, but we know better. No matter what the weather or the calendar says, autumn usually arrives in West Deptford with a trifecta of events—, West Deptford Family Fun Day and, of course, the first day of school.

In our house, there has been a sort of easing in to the school year. My oldest son, a Fairleigh Dickinson junior, started more than a week before his siblings. In fact, he had to leave our vacation home to attend his first class.

My middle child started on Wednesday, his first day as a college student at Gloucester County College. And Max and Libby returned with the rest of the WD public school students on Thursday—Max as a sophomore at my alumna mater, Libby as a fourth-grader at , the first time in three years she was actually returning to a school, thanks to our system of “grade level schooling.”

With all these kids and all these schools, back to school shopping has become a bit of a challenge. Now, back when I was going to school, my parents had a pretty easy time of getting us ready.

In late August, my mom—a heavy-duty believer in “one-stop shopping”—would take the four of us to Woolworths. There we were allowed to choose a schoolbag. (Yes, this was in the days before backpacks. No, I didn’t attend classes in a one-room schoolhouse.)

We were also permitted to select a new Aladdin lunchbox (the kind with glass inside the thermos, the kind that was always broken sometime before Halloween) and a single small notebook. My mom would instruct us to ask our teachers what other supplies were necessary, then write down the list in the notebook. Thus supplied, we were ready for our first day of school.

But through the years, back to school shopping has evolved. Thanks to the Internet, the district had provided a “back to school wishlist” for each of the elementary grades. Some of the items on the list were standard—pencils, pens, highlighters, erasers. Others presented us with the challenge of tracking down just the “right” item for classroom success. (I told my kids it’s an Educational Scavenger Hunt.)

I spent the last week of summer vacation searching out the more elusive items on the list. (And I do have to give credit to the board of education on this point—just when my kids were getting bored of the usual summer activities, they had this entirely new sport to play. I kinda think of it as our own version of the Olympics, played with credit cards.)

This week, my kids donned their back-to-school wear (another day of my life lost at the mall) and headed to their respective classrooms. Max and his friends showed no evidence of the butterflies I felt each year when I returned to good old WD. Instead, they gathered in my kitchen for a quick piece of toast, then, new laptops in tow, compared schedules as they walked to the high school.

And this year is my youngest child’s last year in elementary school. I had to let that sink in for a minute. After all, I’ve been doing this elementary school stuff since my oldest was 5—over two decades ago. To put it in perspective, this October will mark the 23rd year I’ve seen one of my children in a WD elementary school Halloween parade. That has to be some sort of record, doesn’t it?

hangtian September 20, 2012 at 08:23 AM
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