Turn and face the Strange Ch-Ch-Changes

by Amy McGarry

The season is changing. Shorter days. Cool mornings. Summer is fading way making way for fall’s bounties. The heat lovers and sun worshippers feel this change with sadness, but not me. I have always welcomed this change with open arms. During the hottest days of August, I beg for it to come soon.

It’s not just the cooler weather, the crisp air, and gorgeous yellows and oranges of fall that I long for. The changing season also portends going back to school. Call me a nerd, but I always loved going back to school in the fall. Back to school shopping was thrilling. I got to pick out a whole new wardrobe of the latest fashions and bigger sizes to fit my growing body. But what thrilled me even more was shopping for school supplies!

I loved picking out pens, markers, highlighters, notebooks in my favorite colors, a binder, and fresh packs of lined paper. Most exciting, however, was the collection of perfectly sharpened yellow #2 pencils, lined up in a row. Nothing was more satisfying than holding that brand-new pencil with its unused sharp tip, poised in hand for the first time, ready to take those first notes of the year. (Yes, definitely call me a nerd.)

As a high schooler, I was disappointed that the “pee chee” folder that my older sisters used in high school had gone out of style. The pee chee folder, named for its peach color, featured athletes of different sports, all posed in action: a girl in a tennis skirt in mid-swing with her racket, a uniformed football player tackling another, three runners in track outfits racing to be the first. I remember as a child sitting with my teen-aged sisters doing their homework in the evening in awe of all the graffiti on those pee chees. Hearts with “Shannon + Dennis”, and other puppy-love stories, random scribbles and drawings, blue pen coloring in the football player’s uniforms.

I kept my own plain colored folders from high school. Even though they weren’t pee chees, they are my own high school souvenirs that documented my thoughts and feelings at the time. One features a large drawing of a whale with the words “save the whales.” Mostly that was because I’m a terrible artist and whales are easy to draw. On the back I’d written some Pink Floyd lyrics: “Long you’ll live and high you’ll fly, smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry, but all you touch and all you see, is all your life will ever be.” I was also into David Bowie at the time, documented by “Ch ch ch changes, turn and face the strange changes.” It was a constant reminder that change is inevitable. Nothing stays the same.

Now a mother, I’ve relived the thrill of back to school shopping with my daughter for six years in a row. The ads for back to school clothing and school supplies are now swamping my mailbox. At first, I was thrilled to see these. It was an automatic reaction. But as soon as the ads started arriving, the news came that my daughter’s school district would be starting all classes online, no in person classes.

What does that mean for back to school shopping? Does my daughter even need new clothes? She could just stay in her pajamas all day, like she’s done many times throughout the summer. What about that awesome row of new sharp pencils? I don’t think she even needs a pencil for online school. She doesn’t need a fresh pack of lined paper. She can use scrap paper for working out math problems that she answers on a website. Now a 7th grader, the folders she decorated the year before with Harry Potter images would now be covered with One Direction (a boy band she’s currently obsessed with) pictures she’d print off the computer. Only she won’t have a folder this fall. I wonder how we will document her experience of this time without a folder.

The disappointment of not having a pee chee is nothing compared to the disappointments of this back to school season. I remind my daughter and myself that we are the lucky ones. She isn’t the senior who missed out on a real graduation ceremony last spring. She isn’t an athlete who is missing out on experiencing their greatest passion. We are healthy. We have enough food. We can pay our bills. We have to focus on our blessings.

My daughter is learning what we adults have all learned already. Life is full of disappointments. Change is inevitable. These are strange changes indeed. All we can do is take Bowie’s advice and “face the strange changes.” Like summer always passes, this, too, shall pass. Change will come again. We await it with open arms.

Amy McGarry grew up in Spokane Valley, Washington. After a 20 year hiatus, she moved back to Spokane Valley where she lives with her husband, daughter and two cats. She is the author of “I am Farang: Adventures of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand” available on Amazon.com, Auntie’s Bookstore, and Barnes and Noble.

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