The days of summer were in their twilight. In mere weeks, it would be time to pull the jackets out of the closet, head sleepily to the bus stop and bid summer vacation a sad farewell. There was only one thing left to complete this childhood transition – engage in a bit of (groan) back to school shopping.
There were plenty of things to shop for, a plethora of school supplies like markers, pencils, paper, glue, binders and (if you were a child of the 80s, at least) Trapper Keepers. Local stores would be flooded with those in frantic search of an assortment of items to supply their children with. Today, schools are more apt to dictate these supplies in detail, even handing out “supply lists.” Back in the day, however, it was more of a guessing game. And chances are, just when you thought you were done, the teachers would let you know all of the things you neglected to pick up. Then the fun could begin all over again.
And, let’s not forget clothing. If one was not subject to hand-me-downs from brothers and sisters, cousins and … the neighbor (perhaps the lowliest of all hand-me-downs in kid culture,) you were left with the dreaded trip to the clothing store. Carts would be filled with new jeans, new shirts and blouses, new skirts, new underwear, new socks and new shoes to accommodate the never-ending yearly growth spurts of the average child.
It was bad enough that shopping for clothes was a tedious task that removed you from playing with you friends during the precious few remaining days of summer. But no, it got worse; it meant the inevitable visitation to the torture chamber known as the dressing room. Pants after pants, shirts after shirts – it seemed as if the punishment would never end. Many a child pleaded in agony to deaf ears, “Mom, can we please just stop?” A few sniffles and tears later, you finally made your way to the cash register. Never was there a more welcome sight to a child’s eyes.
Then, as you grew older, something strange happened; you started to actually care about what you wore. Suddenly, you had your own set of preferences, your own styles, even your own color choices. You wanted trendy, you wanted designer clothes – most importantly, you wanted to fit in. The first day of school was fast approaching and you better look cool and fashionable, lest you become an outcast.
And when you finally returned home and looked at all your new supplies, all your new clothes, something bizarre occurred; you actually began to look forward to showing off all your new stuff to the friends you hadn’t seen in months. Surprisingly, the end of summer vacation didn’t seem quite so bad.
If you have fond (or not so fond) memories of shopping for school supplies and clothing before the start of the school year, we’d love to hear all of your recollections (horror stories) in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this decidedly unforgettable childhood tradition.