“Describing her first day back in grade school after a long absence, a teacher said, It was like trying to hold 35 corks under water at the same time. “

Labor Day was the last day of freedom for me. School always started the next day. I knew when it was Labor Day even before I mastered calendars as my mother always sang a happy tune. Nothing flustered her. I suspect the chant of one more day was repeating in her head blocking out anything else including our usual squabbles. She forced us to bathe even though we hadn’t gotten all that dirty since Saturday. We complained but she didn’t really care. By bedtime, an early bedtime, more cause for complaint, her inner voice was chanting tomorrow, tomorrow. Had it existed, the song from Annie could have been her anthem.

We were a bit excited but not anything we’d admit. I looked through my pencil box time and again. It could only be new once. Before I went to bed, my school bag was ready with a pad of paper, that pencil box and some crayons, a small box. My mother would make our lunches in the morning and put them in the lunch boxes. She always took out the thermos bottles if we weren’t going to use them. They were easily broken. I can still remember the tinkling sound of thin glass in a broken thermos bottle. Our new clothes and shoes were out and ready. The shoes we’d wear every day but the clothes were only for the first day. After that, uniforms were the order of the day. We already knew our teachers. It was a nun one year and a regular person the next year except in the sixth ad seventh grades. No nuns taught either of those years, but a nun taught each of the eighth grade classes.

I don’t remember when I stopped using a lunch box and used a brown bag instead. I guess it was a milestone of sorts. Gone too were the pencil cases and the school bags. I used pens and carried my books. School wasn’t just the end of vacation. It was also the return of routine. That was the worse part.

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12 Comments on ““Describing her first day back in grade school after a long absence, a teacher said, It was like trying to hold 35 corks under water at the same time. “”

  1. flyboybob Says:

    When I bring my lunch to work I carry a lunch box. Today it’s usually filled with a frozen entrée but occasionally my better half will make a sandwich. It’s padded, insulated and it has a Nike swish on the outside. I could go for a Superman lunch box but we couldn’t find one. 🙂

    Labor Day traditionally was the day to celebrate the working man and the strides made by labor unions. Last year one of our right wing, looney tune, Tea Party representatives attended a Labor Day picnic and declared the holiday is a day to celebrate business leaders. In today’s Republican Party leaders spout ‘New Speak’ as in the novel 1984. 🙁

    There was a famous fable about Henry Ford II giving Walter Reuther, head of the United Auto Workers Union, a tour of a new Ford factory that had the first robots. Henry remarked that someday the entire car would be assembled by machines and Reuther would have no one to unionize. Walter replied, “That’s very nice Henry, how many Fords will each of those machines buy in their lifetime?” Of course this was before globalization. The new Honda Fit and Honda CRV are made in Mexico.

    Happy Labor Day regardless what kind of work you do or did.

    • katry Says:

      Bob,
      I haven’t seen lunches boxes being carried whether by kid or adult in a long time. I guess in schools kids eat in the cafeteria, and when I was working, the high school kids who didn’t had brown bag lunches.

      Your story is a great one, but it was Ford who asked how will you get robots to pay union dues. Teachers had a union but I did not because the law didn’t allow for administrators to have one.

      All the stores are open today so the point of Labor Day has been defeated.

      Enjoy your Labor Day!

      • flyboybob Says:

        We have lots of employees in my company who bring their lunches in various size lunch boxes. They are not the metal ones that we had when we were kids, but the soft sided insulated ones.

        Regardless which version is correct wages have not risen anywhere near profits and executive pay.

    • katry Says:

      Bob,
      Thanks for telling me as I envisioned those metal lunch boxes. The insulated ones makes far more sense as they can keep everything cold or hot as needed.

  2. olof1 Says:

    Schools always starts in the middle of August here and our labor day is May first, we really have nothing to look forward to until December when Advent arrives and with it julmust and gingerbreads 🙂

    I have vague memories of a pencil box and I think it was black or perhaps green? 🙂 We had the same desk for three years in a row so I don’t think I felt the need for a pencil box. The school had all the crayons we ever would need and we all got and still get free lunch at school so no use for a lunch box either.

    I did however always look forward to when we went back to school, I always loved school even when I got tired of it 🙂

    First frost last night, it did arrive in time after all 🙂

    Have a great day!
    Christer.

    • katry Says:

      Christer,
      Kids here start school at all different times in August. In Colorado they started the first week in August. I think the reason no longer exists so school should be all year. Kids are no longer needed to do the harvests so why shouldn’t they be in school. The next holiday is Columbus Day so that will be off and then there is Thanksgiving.

      My pencil boxes had pictures on the front. The schools did give us paper to use for free but we had to buy everything else. Only kids in family’s with low income get free breakfasts and lunches.

      Wow, frost!!

      Have a great evening!!

  3. Coleen Says:

    For some reason your discussion today made me think of the way my lunches were wrapped in my lunchbox.

    Think carefully folded wax paper.Sandwich bags came much later. I don’t recall anything but wax paper…

    Your blog makes my brain remember the weirdest stuff. 🙂

    A happy Labor Day to you…

    • katry Says:

      Coleen,
      I will not accept the places where your weird mind drifts!!

      Yup, I remember the wax paper folded over the sandwich, but I also remember plastic bags holding potato chips.

      A Happy Labor Day to you as well!!

  4. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    Whenever I read the phrase “thermos bottle” it is always accompanied in my mind with the sound of thin glass swishing around in some kind of liquid. 🙂
    In grade school, we went home for lunch so no need for a lunch box. We brought a snack for morning recess to go with our school milk. My mother always gave us peanut butter and saltines wrapped in aluminum foil. I can still recall the smell of foil wrapped peanut butter saltines to this day.
    Pencil boxes disappeared in junior high when I started carrying 3-ring binders with those handy zippered vinyl pockets that could hold all that the pencil box used to.
    I also started carrying a handbag in 9th grade. Usually it was a largish handbag, too. I spent the next 38 years trying to figure out how I had gotten that far without needing one before I finally succeeded and downsized to a wristlet. 🙂

    Today is hot. Rocky is either sick or bored out of his skull. Piki Dog, as usual, does not care one way or the other as long as there is food.

    Enjoy the day.

    • katry Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      Absolutely! I never had a thermos bottle last a whole year. That sound is totally familiar.

      We didn’t have a morning recess, and I lived too far away to go home to lunch so I brought my lunch almost every day. A couple of times a month my mother gave us money for subs, usually on Fridays after payday. I love those days. We never brought peanut butter. It used to drive my mother crazy as we thought that was just for snacks, not lunches.

      My pencil boxes also disappeared but I don’t remember exactly when. I know I was still in elementary school. I never carried a handbag until I was an adult home from Ghana. In Ghana I carried a woven shepherd’s bag. Even the guys carried those. I am not a handbag type person and use a leather backpack all winter and a messenger bag all summer.

      We had a great breeze all day but it has now disappeared. The heat is coming tomorrow and bringing the humidity.

      Have a great evening!


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