Once we made it to the classroom, it was heaven. It smelled of new books. The kind with heavy bright white pages. When we unpacked them from their cellophane prisons they released the most pleasant fragrance of glued paper and ink. When we fanned open the pages, it felt like spring. New and full of potential. We would stack these in the cupboard in Mom’s classroom and surreptitiously place some of the foil stars she kept to put on student’s papers into our pockets. Those little treasures in gold, silver, red, blue, and green metallic thrilled us.
Our next task would be the bulletin board. The large rectangular announcement area to the right of the shorter chalkboard would call to our imaginations all summer tempting us with any number of ideas. Armed with open staplers we would stab its cork skin and adorn it with thick green construction paper. Green is one of my mother’s favorites. Then we cut out beautiful purple orbs and carefully tattooed them in black ink with students’ names. We would attach them to the paper arranged in a bunch like grapes and put up letters that read “Welcome to the Bunch”.
My brother would draw complex cities of chalk on the large black board, while I helped Mom organize more things. One thing she wouldn't let us touch was her desk. It was a massive, carefully organized bunch of disorganization. The large desk calendar that anchored everything was covered in doodles, mainly of bunnies. I liked to sit in her chair and pretend I was a teacher like she was. The drawers were miniature time capsules, full of things she confiscated off her mischievous students from year to year like jacks, a set of old maid cards, several Hot Wheels cars, and some lip gloss. When we were older we would 'graduate' to helping set up Dad's classroom for the school year.
We spent our last week of summer vacation each year not at the pool, the playground, or the trail on the mountains behind our home, but soaking up the history of those school halls and building our own family stories. History seeped from every pore in that school building. History of students past.Trophies in cases from long ago victories. Fading pictures of sports teams and drama clubs. Indelible marks of nation’s past on the arm of the school superintendent who served in World War II and spent time in a German prison camp. Our parents met and fell in love in those halls. Our parents’ working lives were there. Our lives were there.