Back to School

Jane Schuh
by Jane Schuh

As a kid, I loved back-to-school time. Once it hit late August, I swear I could taste the apples from the tree that grew in the back yard, hear the leaves crunching under my new school shoes, and feel the cool autumn mornings to come; even if the apples were still green enough to give me a belly ache, the leaves wouldn’t drop for another month or more, and the temperature was still topping out at 80+ degrees most afternoons.

I loved the pomp and production of back-to-school. Our family was big enough that the local clothes store opened after hours with the express intention of outfitting the Kaspari clan. They did a booming business that night, too. School supplies were another hit. Is there anything better than the promise of new crayons? My memories of childhood are liberally laced with the smell of Crayolas.

When the big day finally arrived, I was off to school decked out in my new duds and carrying my new backpack. Living 5 miles from town, I didn’t get to see my friends much during the summer. Invariably, the first day back the teacher would ask, “What did you do this summer?” Although we’d tell each other about the trips that we’d taken, camps that we’d been to, or visitors that we’d hosted; my real answer was, “Mostly...I just missed all of you.”

Seemingly, not much has changed for me over the years. I still love back-to-school, except that now I’m the teacher, and the school supplies that I buy are for my children. Thankfully, my kids are still little, so new crayons remain in the mix. Although I don’t outgrow them like I used to, shopping for new school shoes is still a favorite way for me to spend an afternoon (or two or three) in August. I continue to love the challenge of a new school year and the potential that it represents.

Starting classes this semester, I find that I’m a bit nostalgic. This year will be the last that I’ll be teaching immunology in the fall. Next year, it will move to the spring, where it fits better in the Microbiology curriculum. I think I’ll miss teaching in the last days of summer when the top is down on the car, toes are allowed to peep out of sandals, and I’m still looking forward to football season. I’ll miss getting acquainted or reacquainted with my students when the school year is still shiny and new with possibilities for the year. I’m sure that teaching in the spring will be fine, but it won’t be the same.

So, maybe for a last time I’m asked, “What did you do this summer?” And my answer is the same, “Mostly...I just missed all of you.” Welcome back.