It’s that time again. Here, some parents insert the word already; others, finally. I guess I’m in the first camp. The summer seemed to go by so fast! (I say that every single year.) My parents used to tell me that the years would go by faster and faster the older I get, and they’re right! 😦
Watching all the kids strolling by on the way to school with their brightly-colored backpacks made me think of my own first days of school, many moons ago. We wore uniforms – dark green jumpers, beige nylon blouses, green bow ties with the obligatory medal of Blessed Elizabeth Seton (founder of the order our nuns belonged to), knee socks and sensible shoes. For a while it was brown oxfords (my mom cheated one year and bought me brown Mary Janes instead), and for a couple of fashion faux-pas years, we wore green and black saddle shoes.
There were a few approved (and also some unapproved) accessories that added a certain je ne sais quoi to the overall look. In the early years, we sported green and gold beanies with the letters SAS emblazoned on the front. This monogram (along with the SAS crest on our uniforms) was presumed to stand for Saint Aidan School, but we all knew better. In kid translation, it meant “Stay After School,” which I had to do just a few times over my tenure there (“Ooooooooooohhh – you have dee-TEN-shun….”).
The knee socks (green also, naturally) were usually not quite long enough, and most of us girls attempted to keep them up near our kneecaps using rubber bands, with the top cuffed neatly down over. With all of our running around (and the incessant up and down to curtsey every time the classroom door opened and another nun walked in – “Good mooooorning Sister Superior!”), those makeshift garters proved pretty useless. Most of the time when we were called upon to answer a question (up again – no such thing as sitting in your seat to speak to the nuns), the first thing the victim would do was stoop to adjust her knee socks – this was also a handy stalling tactic when you weren’t sure of the correct response.
On colder winter days, we were permitted to wear “flesh-color” tights under our knee socks, which seemed to be more a little kid thing. The older girls preferred to wear a somewhat warm (depending on the fabric) fashion accessory called pettipants. Most of these were very plain, something the nuns would have approved of, had they accidentally caught a glimpse (NO ONE was supposed to see our underwear, the main reason not to wear patent leather shoes – I kid you not). However, there were a few daring souls (you know who you are!) who experimented with a more avant garde version of the garment. One day, a seventh-grade nun returned to the classroom after lunch to find at least one of these brazen hussies (“You piece of bold!”) parading around the classroom with her red-and-white striped pettipants on her head. The detention room was pretty full that day.
Around middle-school age, we were issued another required item, a green triangular kerchief with gold piping. This ugly (but comparatively cool) thing came about because we older girls had decided it was too nerdy to wear chapel caps (a lacy doily) or chapel veils (a mantilla version of the doily, de rigueur for more sophisticated students) to Mass. Instead of those particular nun-sanctioned head coverings, we had taken to bobby-pinning Kleenex on top of our heads, a much more respectable (if not respectful) item in our minds, which could be very tailored, depending on just how you folded and pinned it.
As I watch the kids skip down the street toward the elementary school in their shorts, skirts, and tee shirts, I can’t help but think how much they are missing. What kinds of stories will they have to tell in their later years?!