Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back to School

I love this time of year. Always have, strangely enough, though I didn't always love school. It's strange that the thing I despised most as a child became a source of great joy and hope for me in adulthood. Funny how it often seems to be that way.

School was a nightmare for me as a young girl. I had a high IQ and was dysgraphic. I devoured books and filled journals like they were some kind of drug. I liked to sketch, come home to my horse and daydream in the tall grass. I spent hours upon hours wandering the woods around my Green Harbor home, examining every living thing that creeped between the mossy cracks of the stone walls that meandered along the country side, boundaries older than time that kept nothing in or out. They seemed to serve no purpose other than creating a jagged decoration on the landscape that said "others were here before you and left this place wild." I loved tottering along the stones, plucking berries and flowers and salamanders from between them.

School more or less interrupted these more valuable explorations with useless (so I thought) exercises in "stuff I'd never use." And by the time I was old enough to realize I might use some of that "stuff" I had convinced myself nobody was teaching it to me in a way that would prove valuable, or have any lasting force. I was, you understand, a child genius in a world of adults who neither understood me nor knew as much, instinctively, about the world that mattered. Why bother with math when the astonishing properties of ribwort-- which was all over every lawn, for crying out loud-- could be discovered while resting on one's belly in the sunshine?

Is there any creature alive more fortified with disdain than a smart, but stubborn child? If there is I hope it becomes extinct soon. Surely it should go the way of the Dodo.

Later, as a teacher, I was always drawn to those little snot-nosed twerps who knew everything (according to them), and had little need of my tutelage, thanyouverrymuch. I sensed, in them, the mirror that our Creator is so fond of holding up with a smirk. They were like me. I had the benefit of time, patience, and first hand experience with this species of brat, and retain to this day a surpassing fondness for them.

But you know, even when I hated school, I loved the back-to-school season. I'd always wanted to be a writer. September was, granted, the time of prison's return and the revolution of my torture seemed unending, circling back to mock me as each summer died. But it brought with it renewed friendships, books, notebooks, pens, pencils, sharpeners that made sharp smelling coils of wood, apples strewn about the paddock where my chestnut mare munched them happily in spite of their pocks and mushiness. And in spite of the evils of math, there were always kind teachers who were "not so bad after all," who seemed to the child I was to indulge me. I believe the adult I am is correct in realizing, all these years later, that it was not indulgence but fondness I saw there.

The leaves change and summer goes, but we mark its end with new clothes, unbreached bindings on books with crisp white pages, and notebooks with spiral bindings still pristinely coiled around sheaves yet to be filled. Children return to their classrooms each September hoping it will be over soon. Teachers return each year, in spite of lousy salaries, belligerent parents, and snarky students, just hoping. What better way to approach the harvest season, when summer dies, than to begin something perfect and new?

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