Posted tagged ‘school clothes’

“To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations — such is a pleasure beyond compare.”

September 11, 2015

The rain fell and kept falling. It rained all day and most of the night. The morning is dark and has that damp chill which sometimes follows rain. The day is uninviting. Everything is still wet. The breeze is enough to blow the branches on the oak trees, and once in a while I can hear the swishing sound leaves make. Other than that the day is quiet.

In school, on days like today, the room was especially quiet. It was as if the darkness had spread a pall on all of us. I remember the sounds of papers being passed up and down rows. I remember heads bent over worksheets and the sounds of our pencils scratching across the papers and up and down. The nun used to sit at her desk sometimes working, sometimes just staring, maybe even daydreaming. None of us even whispered. We didn’t want to disturb the day.

When I got home from school, I had to change out of my school clothes. Most times I’d wear my play clothes, but on days like today I’d put on my pajamas and lie in bed and read. That last one was my favorite. I would grab my latest book, my Nancy or my Trixie Belden, and get comfy under the covers. The lamp on my headboard was the only light and it shined directly on the page. It was wonderfully cozy.

There is still a lamp on my headboard, but it took me a while to find one. When I was a kid, the lamps were plastic and pink. Mine used to melt when I read under the covers. The one I have now is white and the plastic is covered by fabric. It has a Victorian look about it.

I keep a stack of books by my bed because I still love getting cozy under the covers. Most times I read myself to sleep.

“I went to a Catholic school, so of course we had to wear uniforms. My only form of expression was in shoes and the style of my hair.”

August 18, 2015

The hoopla is over, the festivities finished. The floor is covered in confetti. The balloons have lost helium and now are floating close to the ground. The cake is but a memory, a sweet memory. Last night my friends took me to dinner at the South African restaurant. It was the culminating event. Now my birthday is put away for another year.

The heat continues. We are still living behind closed doors and shuttered windows. Yesterday It became official. Boston is in the midst of a heat wave, three consecutive days above 90˚. We have been a bit cooler thanks to the ocean so no heat wave. The high 80’s don’t rate. They are just plain hot days.

Usually by this time in the summer, I’d done everything so many times I was getting bored. The joy of playing outside late had lost its luster. It was no longer a novelty. It was too hot during the day to do much. We’d bike ride, stop at a shady spot and just sit there until the sweat had stopped rolling down our cheeks, and we were cool enough to get back on our bikes. At every bubbler we’d drink water and wet our heads so we’d feel cooler. Bottled water was a long way in the future. Behind the town hall was a bubbler and another was in the middle of the field at the back of the baseball diamond near my house. That last one gave me the energy to get up the hill to my house.

We’d never have admitted it but it was exciting to get new clothes even if it was for school. We always got new shoes and socks and one new outfit for the first day of school because we didn’t have to wear our uniforms that day. We’d shop with my mother for the new outfit. The rest of the school clothes she’d just buy without us. The new white blouses and new blue skirts, our school uniforms, were never exciting so we didn’t care what my mother chose. It wasn’t as if there were a lot of options.

When I worked, I’d be back full time by now. Seldom did that mean new clothes for me.The excitement was gone.

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.”

August 26, 2014

Today and the rest of the week will be summer warm. It is like a curse of sorts. Every day is cool until school starts then the heat comes. The temperature will hit the 80’s off-Cape.

Growing up I never noticed we didn’t have much money. To me we had what everyone else in the neighborhood seemed to have. I wore a uniform to school so I didn’t need a lot of dress clothes. I had one or two church dresses. That was more than enough. I had school shoes and play shoes. I always put my play clothes on as soon as I got home from school. I never needed prodding to get out of my uniform. We had one car, but that’s all we needed. My mother didn’t drive. We either walked everywhere or took the bus. I remember the trek to visit my aunt and uncle in East Boston. We walked up town, took the bus to Sullivan Square where we took the first of two subway trains. We had to switch lines at a station I don’t remember, but the second train brought us to Maverick Station in East Boston, and we walked just a bit to my aunt and uncle’s. My mother always told us to go to the next station if we got separated. She was hauling the four of us with her and had to watch my younger sisters so my brother and I had to keep our eyes on her. I remember kneeling, looking out the train window and watching everything whiz by us. I liked being underground and seeing all the pipes and hearing the squealing of the wheels at each turn. As the train lurched so did the people.

We lived in the project. It was all duplexes with front lawns, trees and backyards. Our house, as that’s how we thought of it, had three bedrooms, a living room and a smallish kitchen. We never felt in any way stigmatized by living in a project. Most of the adults were around my parents’ ages and there were tons of kids. We were never wanting for a playmate or someone to walk to school with or go see a movie. We lived there until the move to the cape. When I visit my sister who still lives in that town, I sometimes drive by our house. The trees and bushes are huge now, but it looks the same from the outside. Once when I drove by the house was empty but I didn’t get out to look. I should have. I’d have seen the living room through the picture window in front and the kitchen from the back steps. The cellar door was below a flight of stairs and I would have seen the sink for the washing machine from the door window.

We didn’t go away much or out to eat, but we never cared. We had woods and the swamp, the zoo, train tracks to walk, the dairy and a whole town to explore on our bikes. Life for us was rich.

“It is indeed a mistake to confuse children with angels”

May 16, 2014

The day is a beauty, a sit on the deck in the sun and smile sort of day. My deck still looks like winter so it is time to break out spring, to uncover furniture, hang candles, plant window boxes and free the flamingo and the gnome from their winter quarters.

Even when I worked I changed from my school clothes to my play clothes. It was always the first thing I did when I got home. When I was young, my mother reminded me, but that wasn’t really necessary. It was part of the afternoon routine: get home, drop books on the table, put the lunch box in the kitchen and go upstairs to change. This time of year we had lots of light for playing after school, and we had lots of pent-up energy from sitting down most of the day. We usually played until close to dinner time. Homework was done right after dinner at the kitchen table. There was never much of it when I was young. Usually it was finish a work page or learn spelling words for the next day’s test. There were always ten words. The work pages were usually arithmetic, a few problems in division or multiplication. When I was done, I could watch television until it was time for bed. When I think of it now, I realize every day was the same but no day seemed the same. I never thought of yesterday or tomorrow. I was totally involved in today. I was a kid and that’s what we did.

The only thing I remember about my eighth grade graduation was it was in church. The school had no gym or auditorium. We took a class picture with the pastor of the parish and we were in our fancy clothes. There were over ninety of us which meant 45+ students in each of the two eighth grades. I remember the rows of desks. My favorite seat was by the window because of the bookshelves flush against my desk. I used to stash my radio there, put the earphone in one ear, hide it with my hand and listen to music. Once I got caught, but the nun only asked if I could hear well enough. I figured she thought I was a bit deaf. I also used to hide candy there. Fireballs were a favorite. I never got caught. My heart was broken when the nun changed all our seats trying to break up the talkers, and I ended up front. I had to be good. I was too close to the nun’s desk. I did manage, though, to break a rule or two. On really nice days, I hid my brown bag and went out as if I were going home to lunch, and I sometimes came back late but never got in trouble. Other times I’d leave early with some lame excuse like going to the library, and I always got away with it. I was a favorite and I took full advantage.

“You can wear anything as long as you put a nice pair of shoes with it.”

August 26, 2013

Today I’m tired for no reason as I slept just fine. It may be the clouds and the coolness giving me a bit of a down day. My to do card has change litter, change bed, shower, do a wash and go to the dump. I’m thinking that list has something to do with my mood. Not one thing is fun. If I were a Disney character I could just sing The Happy Little Working Song and the spawns of Satan, the chipmunk who lives in my lawn, the mice probably still hiding in the cellar and the birds from the feeders could join in the cleaning. Then again I could just Whistle While I Work and even make it a happy tune. Somehow, though, none of that is appealing. I choose to wallow in my mood.

This is it: the final week before school starts. It was a mad dash for my mother to get us all ready. Mostly we needed new school shoes and whatever parts of the uniform we had out-grown over the summer. I usually got a new blouse or two, always white, and my brother generally needed new pants and new white shirts. The shoes were always sturdy, meant to be worn most of the school year. We didn’t have much money, but my mother never skimped on school shoes and clothes because we had to wear them every day. She always figured it was cheaper in the long run to buy more expensive clothes rather than constantly replacing them. The rule, of course, was to get out of our school clothes into our play clothes as soon as we got home.

I don’t remember when the categories disappeared and all of what I wore just became clothes. When I was little, we had school clothes, play clothes and church clothes. None of them were ever interchangeable. Most of my clothes were play clothes because I wore a uniform to school and a dress to church, usually an old Easter or Christmas dress. My Sunday shoes were also dressy, sometimes patent leather with a strap. My play shoes were usually sneakers or shoes which in a former life had been school shoes demoted because they were worn and scuffed with a sloping heel.

I really liked going to the shoe store, putting my feet in the x-ray machine to see the bones and having the shoe salesman check my size using the sliding silver sizer. I’d wander to look at the shoes on display, always only one shoe of a pair, and them pick out some to try on until I’d found the perfect pair: the pair my mother and I could agreed upon. She’d pay for them, but I always proudly carried the bag with the shoe box inside. They were my new shoes.

Tom Cruise has braces now, too. I’m right in style.”

August 9, 2012

It’s back to hibernation I go. The day will be hot and humid, mostly humid. I turned the AC on last night so the house is now quite comfortable. Gracie rang her door bells at 8, and I let her out, waited for her and then went back right upstairs to bed. I woke up at ten. I was surprised.

Some commercials are now filled with back to school clothes, school supplies and happy kids. I don’t get the happy kids part.  A new pair of pants or a shirt just isn’t enough to make up for the end of summer. The school year looms and it’s always long. Summer is a mere 9 or ten weeks and school is eons, months and months. I never thought about them until I was older: school pictures. They take them early in the year, and I finally figured out why. If it were later, not a kid could smile.

My first grade picture is of a little girl wearing a white blouse and a skirt with straps. My hair is long and curly at the ends. I have crooked, buck teeth so in the second grade I had started to go to an orthodontist, not so common back then. There were none where we lived so my mother and I had to walk uptown to take the bus to Sullivan Square where we took the subway to Kenmore Square. I remember going to see Dr. Nice. His office was in one of those grand homes along Commonwealth Avenue which are still beautiful today. The waiting room was a big as the downstairs of my house. It had couches and lovely lamps on the tables. His receptionist sat at a giant desk, or at least it looked giant to me. Dr. Nice wore a white jacket with buttons on the shoulders like Dr. Casey’s later on TV. Dr. Nice was an old man with white hair. His office faced the street. I didn’t see much of it when my mouth was open. All I saw was the ceiling. I liked Dr. Nice.

I went through all the stages of braces. Early on my teeth were covered in metal. I looked like Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me. No one else I knew had braces. Some needed them but going to the orthodontist as a rite of childhood was off in the future. I was embarrassed by those braces. In my second grade picture I didn’t smile. I hid my braces. It is not a pretty picture.

“Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week”

October 3, 2010

Last night was close the windows chilly. Today is also chilly and it’s overcast. Inside the house feels cooler than outside. I’m even wearing a sweatshirt. A little sun would help the day immeasurably.

As Sunday was the day of the week which never had much going on, we developed a Sunday frame of mind. For us, Sunday  meant dressing for church, walking to mass, coming home and changing then hanging around until the family dinner, the highlight of the day. After dinner, the afternoon was pretty much spent so we could never wander. We’d watch TV or play a few games. It was an early to bed night with school the next day. Sunday was boring.

Even though all the stores are now open and Sunday is much the same as the rest of the week, I still have that same Sunday frame of mind. I don’t do much on Sundays. I go out to breakfast then spend a leisurely morning reading the papers. I call my sister. In the afternoons, I watch TV, sometimes a game, sometimes a movie. Every now and then I even make a big dinner, usually a roast chicken. When I worked, I went to bed early. It was a school night.

It’s strange what we carry with us all our lives. I always changed out of my school clothes when I got home from work, even when I was an administrator. I swear I could hear my mother telling me to put on my play clothes. I’ve always thought of Saturday as the fun day and Sunday as the  somber day. Until I went into the Peace Corps, we still had Sunday family dinners, and when I lived on my own, my mother always cooked a special Sunday meal when I visited, usually a roast. I don’t shop and I still stay close to home on Sundays. It just feels right somehow.