In the fall

It's not New York, but fall is full of possibilities for students everywhere.  Yorktown, Autumn 2008

It’s not New York, but fall is full of possibilities for students everywhere. Yorktown, 2008

“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”
Nora Ephron

I love fall because it is connected with my happiest memories of childhood.  In particular, the onset of cooler mornings and the sight of children headed back to school evokes the excitement I always felt at the beginning of each year, when anything seemed possible.  A new teacher, a new set of classmates, new books, visits to the school library (of which I could NEVER get enough) and yes, school supplies.  My first few years of school established a love of pencils, pens, crayons, glue, tape and paper that has lasted to this day.

How I envied those children who came to school with bright new boxes of SIXTY-FOUR different color crayons!  Even now, at the age of nearly 57, I have never yet owned such a magnificent range of creative possibilities in wax.  Because my mother was frugal, I had to settle for the school-issued box of 8 fat crayons with their frustratingly broad tips that only grew less defined with use – and there was no way to sharpen them, either.  Still, I was happy to get a new set each year.

Despite being without the most appealing and flashy educational accoutrements, I had abundant delightful provisions to enjoy. I wish some perfumer would bottle a fragrance that was a combination of scents that included pencil shavings, powdered tempera paint mix, chalk, duplicator fluid, freshly bound books, and the smell of new pulp tablets – with maybe some freshly baked cafeteria buttered yeast rolls thrown in.  I would buy that bouquet in huge quantities if I could.  The back-to-school smell quickened my spirit as nothing else has since.  I feel sad to realize that computers and related technologies have rendered many of these supplies obsolete, though our children’s children will have other things to remember.

What are some of your favorite back-to-school memories?


  1. School supplies ! Sigh ! I still lust for them. It always rained on the first day of school and our shoes would get soaked by the time we reached. I loved taking them off and walking around barefoot in class 🙂

    • Wow, that is one cool memory; barefoot in school! In Hawaii, many of the kids would wear “slippers” (what we used to call flip-flops) to school, and often they might end up barefoot. I have a favorite photo of a dear friend who taught preschool in Hawaii – she is standing in the door of her classroom and she and ALL her students are barefoot! When we first moved there and were getting to know the culture, my son came home with a photocopied general information note from the teacher: “Field trip tomorrow. Wear shoes.” That’s when I really knew we were living in an island paradise! 🙂 I’m glad to know I’m not the only one with a thing about school supplies. Every year when all the stores come out with their 1 cent, 10 cent and 25 cent specials, I can’t resist buying some! You don’t want to know how many blank composition books and folders I have :-). Thanks so much for being here – and I’m sending you an imaginary bouquet of exotic crayolas! 🙂

      • That bouquet was amazingly fragrant and made my day 🙂
        btw, I don’t think you want me to get started on the topic of notebooks. I just keep buying different kinds and inhaling them 🙂

        • I am always SO HAPPY to hear I’m not the only one with these fixations! To me a blank journal or notebook represents possibility and promise. I’m so glad you liked the post! Thanks for being here!

  2. Fall is my favorite season, too! I love the colors, the crisp mornings and warm days.
    I liked the routine of school, and all the activities it brought.

    • Hi Denise, I was always happy to get back to a routine too. Even though I am a night owl for whom disciplined hours do not come naturally, I think it’s interesting that even the most right-brained among us seem to thrive on routine. The crisp mornings are such a treat after the heat of summer. Thanks for being here, and I wish you a beautiful autumn!

  3. The smell of new denim. For the first 6 years, I got new jeans at the start of every school year.

    • Hey, that’s one I left out! Back in the days when NONE of the jeans were pre-washed and sold with worn spots on them, pretty much all the boys had new jeans, and the smell of that bright blue new denim is definitely part of the combination of scents I described earlier. I also remember when school-supplied 3-ring binders were covered with a cloth that looks like a thinner version of denim; these too had their own smell.

  4. MaryAnn

    Your continued love of learning shines through loud & clear! I loved walking the 2 blocks to school and coming home for lunch most days. When the stores start their sales, I have a great time buying school supplies for the Christmas boxes we send around the world and for the backpacks we gather for the children who need them. Fall is my favorite time of the year. God sends gorgeous sunsets for me!
    Praying for Jeff & all your family. How is Matt’s arm?

    • Hi Mary Ann, thanks for your prayers, which are keeping us going. Matt’s arm has healed well, but he still doesn’t have full range of motion back. It will probably take some more physical therapy. Back during those days when we were doing Magi Project together, I used to love having an excuse to go out and buy all those lovely things for the boxes! I am going to do a post about it in December, I think. I have so many photos of you that I don’t know which I want to include first – so blog readers can see your beautiful smile! But it may be the Magi Project photo I include first. Stay tuned!

  5. Jenelle

    Denise, I ditto your response! Fall colors spark my soul in a magically hopeful way. The feeling is different from spring where seeing the blooms just makes me smile. And the cool mornings that blend into warm afternoons makes me giddy! Those cool morning signals that Christmas is on the way, haha! Fall also brings pumpkin goodness, one of my favorite baking flavors 🙂

    • Jenelle, I know a few other pumpkin lovers, and I am planning a post for them in the coming weeks – stay tuned! 🙂 And yes, I have always known that a good part of the fall magic for me is the lead-in to the Christmas season, about which I am absolutely silly. To borrow and modify a phrase from Hawkeye in the movie version of M.A.S.H., I am what they call a “regular Christmas clown.”

  6. Sheila

    Julia, I think we officially “bonded” when I mentioned Crayolas months ago. I’m almost certain yeast rolls are a thing of the past. I, too, remember those exciting, back to school days. I hated when my Mom would tell me it was much too hot to wear my plaid fall dresses and pretty little sweaters.Oh, howI loved my saddle oxfords! “Those were the days, my friend.”

    • Plaid dresses and saddle oxfords! I forgot to mention them, but those too were part of my back to school “must-haves.” Are we twins separated at birth, or are there hundreds (maybe thousands) more out there like us? Probably the latter…My sister and I used to speak of “sweater weather” as something we looked forward to every year!

      • Sheila

        Good morning! I’m still lingering here…. loved these memories. I hadn’t thought of those light blue cloth notebooks in years. I suppose our grandchildren will reminisce about backpacks and iPhones! Great photo of little Grady on his “page”, by the way. Play ball!

        • Thanks Sheila. Sometimes I wonder if people of the future will be able to “beam up” to places as on Star Trek, and then they will say “remember those days when we had to RIDE IN CARS AND BUSES?!!” It’s fun to wonder about such things. I thought the photo of Grady was funny. Glad you liked it! Have a great weekend.

      • Guilty! love Saddle shoes and yes to plaid too….go 70’s go!

        • I wonder if anybody remembers those “train case” purses we used to carry in the 60’s, or the “mood rings” of the late 70’s? Now that I’m older, I think fashion is way more fun to look back on that it is to keep up with in the present.

  7. Oh my gosh this made me smile. Yes to all those scents. Each one evoked a memory. Fall does feel like new beginnings, far more than January 1st in my book.

    And yes to the library, too. I wanted to be a librarian for awhile and was always volunteering at the school library and grade school and beyond. I was a quick reader who devoured many books. Lovely post, Julia.

    • Thanks Alys, I’m so glad you like it! I agree that fall feels much more like new beginnings than January 1, which makes me think of those words of Clement Clarke Moore: “And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.” Fall is especially glorious in your part of the country, when the vineyards become colorful and the rains haven’t yet started. I’m so glad we had the chance to live for five years in northern California!

      • How I wish we had crossed paths. Yes, the more I read other blogs and hear about the weather around the globe, the luckier I feel.

        Love the clement Moore poem. I read it every year.

        • We used to read it each Christmas Eve to our sons; we have several other versions (Hawaiian, Hillbilly, Texan etc.) and it’s a lot of fun. I fully intend to return to California as often as I can, so perhaps our paths will cross there sometime in the future…but till then, it’s lovely visiting with you here!

          • I had no idea there were so many versions. What fun.

            Yes, to a California visit. That would be extraordinary.

            • I’ve never seen a “NorCal Republic” version, but perhaps I should try to write one myself. 🙂 No “moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow” but I’m sure we could find some great substitutes – maybe the moon reflected on the Pacific Ocean or the SF Bay!

  8. We’re well on our way to fall here yet the weather has remained really warm. The trees know better and have started to drop more and more leaves. In a couple of weeks, the downtown streets will be buried in gold. Usually by October, the annuals have been kissed by frost and everyone’s thinking about snow tires (but no one takes action until the first crazy drive to work, HA). I used to really look forward to ‘back to school’. To catch up with friends, meet new ones and get new shoes.

    • Your October sounds about like our December – I have to bring my begonias and geraniums in before December 1 or the frost usually beats me to them. Our Cherry Blossom tree always loses its leaves quite early; they are already falling, but most of our York trees haven’t started shedding yet. I do miss the anticipation of “back to school” times, which are some of my favorite memories.


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