Autumn school memories
Smell is such a strong memory cue. I remember the back to school smells of September and October. Warm days, cool nights as autumn advanced. We could almost smell the leaves changing color.
The new erasers for my pencil case smelled like candy. The smells of colored pencil shavings. I remember when I graduated from pencil to ball point pen in Grade 3. In the autumn days that were still warm, running around with my friends trying to catch grasshoppers on the John McCrae School playground. Going into the Snake Pit, the empty, overgrown lot adjacent to John McCrae, looking for garter snakes (you couldn't miss them, there were so many the ground was slithering). Riding my bicycle in the low-angle orange autumn light. The lazy days of summer were gone, but the days of autumn were still plenty carefree. That was elementary school. High school had its own memories. I remember a constant feeling of tension, pressure and worry - lots and lots of worry, about girls, thoughts about the future - university and career - concern over marks. Fear. There was a lot of fear in high school. I wouldn't describe high school as "carefree." Not much fun, either.
I spent my allowance on cream soda, root beer, Double Bubble, Graperoo and Black Cat bubble gum, Popeye Candy Cigarettes, Freezies, licorice cigars and pipes, and salt-and-vinegar Hostess potato chips. In my mind I still associate Grade 5 with the smell of Cream Soda. I can still remember the smells of these things individually plus the cool inside feeling of Bob Hefky's Edinburgh Convenience Store. I wish I had a picture of Hefky's.
I rode a standard bike, but I dreamed of the cool 3-speed bike with the banana seat and the monkey handlebars like some boys had that helped us imagine we were riding real motorcycles. I eventually got one second hand from the teenager across the street, Bill Ketchison. I bought it with my lawn cutting money.
In addition to all that, the teachers were troubling us with such oppressive things as homework. I remember when my homework for all subjects in elementary school was a daily quota of pages from each subject's workbook. I still have some of my early workbooks marked with the teacher's red pen swirls, or blue, silver and gold star stickers.