When I was a kid, Australia Day (January 26) meant it was time to go back to school after the six week summer vacation.
Since my vacation time was spent mainly with my little brother and my cousins, I was more than ready to go back to school to catch up with my friends and share holiday adventure stories with them. The adventure stories would be well and truly embellished by the time they were shared making for some really tall tales in the first week of school.
The biggest part of going back to school was the new equipment one required. New books, new pencils and art materials, new school bag (usually brought by Santa after the old one had collapsed under the strain of a school year), sometimes a new uniform and, of course, new school shoes.
School shoes were black lace ups and were usually fairly heavy on the foot, because they had to put up with a lot of playtime stress. They also tended to rub one’s heels raw after about ten minutes wear in the early stages. This meant that they had to ‘worn in’.
I would be instructed, after I had had a bath to remove the day’s grime, to put my new shoes on and walk around in them for a while to wear them in. Worn with my blue polkadot pyjamas and new white ankle socks, the school shoes completed a highly fetching outfit. Mum would tell me to walk up and down the long hallway of our house for ten minutes or until the shoes started to rub – whichever came first. Boring!
I tried reading while walking, but I would crash into my brother who was also wearing in new shoes and, for some reason, could not get out of my way. I was sure he did it on purpose so that I would get into trouble. I was the big sister and was supposed to ‘set the example’. I didn’t even know what the example was! I just knew he was annoying.
I tried singing while walking but would be told that my voice was too loud, too irritating, too off key, too squeaky, too much like those dreadful rock and roll people. I was quite pleased by that last one.
I even tried practising the times tables. This was acceptable to my parents and allowed me to keep a close eye out for my little brother’s sneaky collisions.
Ten minutes isn’t a long time but it seemed like forever. It would take about a week to wear those wretched shoes in by which time the times tables were really well known.
My favourite thing about the back to school process was the readying of the books etc.
School books, text books and note books, had to be covered. Some people used brown paper to cover the books and then stuck interesting decals on them to make them look really good. Some people recycled their wrapping paper from Christmas and some people used the sticky Contact paper.
I was not allowed to use Contact paper until I started high school because it was quite expensive back then and was quite tricky to handle. Over the years I perfected covering my books with Contact paper – no bubbles, no creases, just a shiny clear cover – but my initial attempts weren’t very pretty. One year I even ended up covering the books with brown paper over the top of the bubbly, creased Contact paper. What a disaster!
These day you can get plastic slip on covers that offer no challenge whatsoever as regards application. You simply pop the book covers into the little pockets. Done!
By the time Australia Day rolled around, all was in readiness.
Books covered, pencils sharpened, all placed in new school bag. Uniforms cleaned, ironed, hems let down where necessary. New shoes worn in.
There new school year stretched out before us, full of excitement, challenge, some fear if one was honest, but most of all, promise – promise of the unknown. That, for me, was most exciting.
I liked not knowing what lay ahead. I would imagine all sorts of scenarios, dramas, successes and spectacular failures. The anticipation was exhilarating. I would head off on that first day ready for anything. In my mind I had already coped with whatever life was about to throw at me. With plans in place to deal with the horror of being placed in Mr Higgins’ class or having to sit next to – (gasp) – a boy, I would set forth with the natural resilience and humour of childhood and, of course, my collection of spicy tales of holiday adventures.
I hope Australia Day is an enjoyable day for you. Remember to pop over to Book’dOut to enter the competition to win a book by an Australian author. If you would like to check out any of my mystery books for 8-12 year olds, pop on over to Taya Bayliss Books.