Back to School

Back to School

By Jeanne Piraino Sigler
Thursday Review Contributing Writer

Last Saturday I dropped by Wal-Mart to grab a few groceries for dinner. It was sort of later in the day, so I figured it wouldn’t be too crowded.

What I didn’t realize was that it was the last shopping weekend before most local schools were opening. Here I thought I’d grab my broccoli, chicken, and potatoes and make a quick run for it. Instead, I found myself lost in a sea of frazzled parents and restless youngsters groping for trapper-keepers and sharpies. “Are we done yet?” I heard one child whine.

Poor kid. Summer break must have ended too soon for that child. Now the prospect of making the classroom his home in less than 48 hours must have been agonizing.

I had a few classmates who felt the same way. They just simply did not like school. On the other hand, I was one who really enjoyed it. Every fall, I’d look forward to the new school year starting. Maybe it’s because of the little perks that went with the occasion. Namely my pair of new school shoes. Picking those out was always the highlight of the pre-school-year shopping trip.

My parents always made sure that my sister Fran and I were dressed neatly, comfortably and sensibly. Unbeknownst to us kids, my parents were operating on a shoestring budget. Yet, we never did without.

Every summer we girls each picked out one dress from the J.C. Penney catalog. When the dresses arrived, my mom would make sure they fit us, then proceeded to cut patterns from spread out newspaper. She always had spare fabric on hand and made good use of it. In no time at all, we’d have an instant autumn wardrobe. She was just being thrifty, yet she managed to make us feel very special.

The big decision was what outfit to wear on the first day. This got particularly important the older we got. By our teen years, it was a matter of life and death. And of course for me, the shoes always played a vital part.

As my mind wandered, so did my shopping cart. Before I knew it, I’d wandered through every department in the Supercenter for close to an hour. I headed to the checkout and got behind a tired-looking mom emptying her buggy, piling binders, folders and pencils on the conveyor, while her three kids bickered over who got what. I cast a glance in her direction as she rummaged in her purse for her wallet. “Back to school, huh?” I commented. Rather flatly, she replied, “My three favorite words.”

Grabbing the divider bar, I placed my groceries on the moving counter next to hers. First the chicken, then the potatoes, next the broccoli, and finally at the end, a new pair of shoes, just for old time sake.

Jeanne Piraino Sigler is a freelance correspondent for the Thursday Review. She can be reached for comment at