It’s that time of year again. When the scent of freshly-sharpened pencils mingle with the aroma of chalk and the nervous sweat of incoming freshmen. It’s back-to-school time in West Virginia.

When I asked people about their back-to-school memories, the majority of responses I received were negative. Oh, how they hated coming back and saying goodbye to all the fun they had during the summer months. The dread of sitting for eight hours listening to a grown-up drone on and on about things they could care less about, and were convinced they would never use once they themselves “grew up.”

By the way, just to let you know, it wasn’t just students who dreaded coming back to school. My mother, who taught in the school system for over 30 years, never looked forward to the first day of school. It was the end of summer for her too. The ability to take off during the day for fun places or just to ride around and look at nature would end. The days (and nights) of grading, planning, decorating classrooms, endless meetings, tests, and the pressure of making sure all of her students learned something over the course of the year took their toll on her as well. She always wound up with what we came to call “Start-of-schoolitis” a dreadful disease that seemed to infect everyone, except me.

See, I loved the start of school (yes I know, I’ve been told often that I am a freak; but hear me out). I loved the fact that I got a fresh wardrobe at the start of the year; to me it was a chance to start over with a new look, a new attitude to express through my clothing choices (which, admittedly were a bit more on the “don’t” side of fashion).

I even loved shopping for school supplies. It gave me the chance to say “This is the year I get organized and stay that way.” Like New Year’s resolutions, some of it stuck, some not so much; but the potential was always there, at the start of each new school year. Trapper-Keepers, felt-tip pens, binders, notebooks, and all of the gizmos and gadgets they sell to convince you that you can do it this year.

Each new school year always said to me “potential.” Yeah, last year you got laughed out of the cafeteria for dropping an entire plate of spaghetti down your shirt, or the English teacher hated the way you wrote, or the boy you found irresistable didn’t even look your way; but each new year brought the potential that it would be your year.

Plus, there was the bonus of learning something new. Each year gave me a new nugget of knowlege, a different way of looking at the world, another dream to build on.

Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t take long for the realities of school life to set in. However, the first day, full of new clothes, fresh-sharpened pencils, and a firm belief that I was in charge of my destiny, was the best day of the school year.

— contact Ginger Boyles at

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