While at Target recently I was picking up notebooks at the back-to-school sale, and the scene made me think of a black and white photo of my brothers and me heading back to school in 1960. Standing among harried mothers clutching their school supply lists and children choosing between the playful dolphin or the neon pink Barbie embossed notebook, I knew we’d never been given those choices for any school supplies.
We attended a small parochial school run by Franciscan Nuns whose brown habits covered every inch of their body, except for their hands and faces. We only saw their long slender fingers and faces framed in starched white wimples. No matter what the Midwestern weather, they were always calm and collected under all that wool fabric. Classrooms and teacher were at a premium, so I spent five out of my eight years at Sacred Heart Elementary School in the same classroom with my older brother. Back then school supplies didn’t get more high tech than a mechanical pencil. Kids today may be required to do not only research on a computer, but also turn in a document in Microsoft Word format and hot off the printer. And with all the texting and e-mails, our younger generation feels they don’t have to learn spelling or grammar. As long as the message is received and understood, they are satisfied. Well, I am not. That’s not an adequate method of communication and it’s up to us as adults to set a better example.
I love language. I love how words comfort and soothe, excite and ignite, invite and entice. Children’s literacy appears to be a priority, but when Story Hour consists of popping a DVD into the computer and sitting the child down in front of the monitor I feel sad for both the child and adult involved. I grew up in a little farming town, but I knew the world through books and reading. And I learned to love writing. Writing in my journal has been a safe place to vent, a confidant, and where I work out my problems. Writing in my journal helped me to cope with challenges as catastrophic as being diagnosed with breast cancer, to the annoyance of developing an allergy to fragrance at the advanced age of 50.
“Wow!” a young boy in a green t-shirt and baggy shorts commented on all the notebooks in my cart. “How many kids do you have?”
“Actually,” I smiled as his mom looked up from the pile of red notebooks in her hand, “these notebooks are for ladies like your mom. I like to have lots of them on hand to offer to the ladies who come to my Creativity and Simple Abundance Close-to-Home workshops. They use them for class notes, or as a place to record their thoughts, hopes and dreams. I use them as too, and sometimes I decorate the covers with colorful papers, fabric or even paint. When I do that it’s called a collage.”
“Oh, cool,” said the soon-to-be 3rd grader.
“Interesting,” said the woman who recognized she was being acknowledged as her own person rather than a busy wife and mother of 4 children less than 10 years-of-age.
“Way cool,” I said as we finished selecting our notebooks and headed for the check-out.