Back to school thoughts by Shinazy
On a popular social media website I watch my friends with school-age children chat about all they must do in preparation for sending their babies back to school. In addition to buying clothes that fit better than the ones they bought six months ago, they must buy backpacks, classroom supplies, sports equipment, study guides, and textbooks.
How different the current back to school activity is from when my grandmothers or I returned to the classroom.
During a shopping trip to buy my sensible Saddle Oxfords, my grandmother, Nana, reminisced how she looked forward to the new dress signaling the first day of school. She was born in the Philippines, on the island of Mindanao, in a tiny village. In 1906, her future had one option: Become a wife and exist. But Lola, her mom, designed a different destiny for her only surviving child. Saving the colorful parts of the burlap sacks that contained their flour and sugar, Lola hand-stitched pretty school outfits. In unaccented, enunciated English – which I rarely heard – Nana admitted, when she walked to the missionary school, although her bare feet were strolling along a dirt road, she felt like a princess entering a fairytale.
For my other grandmother, Pauline, aka Gigs, going back to school was a frightening experience. She was the third generation to live in San Francisco; however, her mother insisted no one utter a single English word in her house. The land surrounding their homestead isolated them from other families. On the first school day, Pauline viewed the black wall where she had to write her name. She did not turn to face the class when she introduced herself as she wondered, “How will these children pronounce my name?” The horror persisted, every year the back to school time meant trying to remember the English words she learned before summer break. She continued to suffer as an outsider, longing for graduation day.
My going back to school was less terrorizing, I say ‘less’ rather than ‘not’ because it involved clothes shopping, lots of it. I was a scraped-knees-with-bruised-shins girl, who preferred climbing trees to shopping. However, the ‘Fall Fashion Season’ was important to my mom, so shop we did. She would find the adorable wool sweater-set with matching wool-pleated skirt, the stylish wool jumper, and the charming wool knee-high socks. Now, if we lived in New York City all this wool would have been perfect, but this was San Francisco where autumn low temperature hover in the mid 50’s. I may have been over-heated, but I looked like a proper young lady returning to academia.
How do the children of my Facebook friends feel about getting ready for the new school year? Maybe, regardless if it’s yesterday or today, the back to school activity involves a time of change and we each embrace, resist, or tolerate it in our own way.
photos courtesy Oilbac and JJLosier