Woman@Heart

Musings on Life, Love and Lefovers

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

shutterstock_259678913It’s a little known fact that my favorite TV commercial sells staples and sticky notes. Even my husband, Nick, would be surprised. He thinks that I’m partial to ads using the slogan: “A Diamond Is Forever.” And I don’t’ want to change his opinion. But just between you and me, my vote for best TV commercial goes to a purveyor of printer cartridges, file folders and mailing labels. I’m quite the fan of a certain office supply megastore’s ad campaign and it doesn’t have anything to do with their glamorous wares, although I do like a nice pen.

Nevertheless, I tip my hat to the marketing mavens and mavericks who cleverly juxtaposed back-to-school shopping to the tune of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” During 30 quick seconds, this TV mini-movie acknowledges what parents of school-age kids secretly feel — Christmas doesn’t come in December, it shows up in August or September. I’ve been comforted by this bit of retail genius through several school-shopping seasons and no matter how many times I’ve watched it, the commercial still makes me smile.

Andy Williams’ voice croons happily while dad skips, pirouettes and glides down the store’s aisles, cascading pencils into his shopping cart. Two sad-faced children reluctantly trail behind. This advertisement appeals to those of us who are glad to see our youthful seekers of knowledge return to education’s hallowed halls. With a wink and a smile, we moms and dads covertly give a fist pump or two into the air, or exchange high-fives as the first day of school approaches.

After the relaxed schedules of summer, parents are relieved to be back in the school routine.  Bedtime is reinstated and mornings find our young learners eating their cereal by 7:30. Students are out of the house (and in class) most days from 8 to 3. Yes, I treasure the first day of school almost as much as singing “Jingle Bells” and sipping egg nog. It is a most wonderful time of the year.

But (much like the holidays) I find that the actual preparation isn’t nearly as much fun. Mere weeks after June’s last day of class, my mailbox was bombarded with back-to-school circulars. I held off on these door-buster sales, after learning the hard way not to guess how many glue sticks, color pencils and big pink erasers that year’s teacher will require. I patiently waited for a “suggested list of school supplies” that found its way into my hands each September.

Until my three sons started their formal education, I was oblivious to this annual shopping frenzy. As toddlers, Shawn, Jake and Seth watched Sesame Street and learned to recognize the Letter and Number of the Day. Time passed and before long, they were ready to tackle a more demanding curriculum. At four-year intervals, shortly after turning three, each of them ventured into preschool. For a few hours, three days a week, they learned — courtesy of Miss Diane, Miss Sheila and Miss Cathy — how to share, play well with others and line up for recess.

The preschool supply list was pretty short: the newest cartoon character lunch box, lace-up sneakers and a fresh box of crayons. As the number of classroom hours increased, though, so did the educational necessities. Alongside spelling, social studies and math, came items like stretchy book covers, protractors, multi-themed binders and insulated lunch bags. Predictably, elementary school turned into middle school. The coursework became more complex and sophisticated. So did my boys. In addition to all the regular stuff, they now required essentials like hiker-style backpacks, graphing calculators, mechanical pencils and laptops.

I discovered that hidden in between the shopping negotiations — how many pocket folders to buy and how much to spend for a pair of jeans — lies a parent’s real reward for stocking desks, lunchboxes and closets. We secure a front row seat to watching the future open up for our children. Pencil by pencil, we witness their growing excitement for learning and we encourage their dreams. Whether it’s reciting the alphabet, earning an “A+” on their science project, or making the team, we get to share their pride of personal achievements.

The semesters have clicked by.

Seth, my youngest, has already traded in his textbooks, backpack and supply list for a college diploma, a resume and a career. Reluctantly, I’ve relinquished the task of comparing prices for index cards, pencil pouches and combination locks. My days as official school-supply buyer have come to a close, still I keep a place in my heart for a certain holiday commercial. I hope to watch it for years to come. And while I’m humming along, maybe I’ll give into the urge and buy some yellow highlighters in celebration of this most wonderful time of the year.

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