By Robin Garrison Leach
There is a paper clipped chain of memories connecting the sights, sounds and smells of back-to-school shopping. I head down the traffic-jammed aisle at Wal-Mart, dodging waist-high elbows and list-clamping fists.
My senses vibrate as if being tickled by familiar hands. I lean into the feeling and the tickle becomes a hug as warm as late August. As safe as round-edged scissors, and as reassuring as the click of metal rings inside a loose-leaf binder.
The store shelves bulge in delightful disarray. Like the aftermath of seismic activity, items lay together in precarious piles that threaten to topple as I tiptoe past.
Towers of ten-cent spiral notebooks are turned this way and that; they’re cheerful, primary-colored pagodas of paper and cardboard. Ridged slabs of bulk yellow pencils (the number “2” reassuringly etched into each) joust dully with flashier, pricier trios of graphite and wood.
Pink erasers, bubble-gummy plump and virtuously unrubbed, beg to be poked. I extend an index finger into the bin of rubbery rectangles and stroke the familiar gritty smoothness with unmistakable pleasure.
The sacrifice they will make, trading longevity for wisdom, gains my respect in knowing melancholy.
Crayons gather in orderly splashes of different sized groups. They are object lessons of integrated beauty, all waiting for the heat and pressure of chubby fists against the paper names they wear. I open a box—that familiar snap of cardboard—and a rush of waxy, pungent aroma pictures waft from the flat-tipped points.
I inhale their scent of imagination and remember when staying in the lines was as important as sitting up straight.
For the complete column, see this week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard.