Back to school in Oak Park and River Forest. Jeesh!

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

And so it begins. School.

Wednesday is book pickup day for the H's at the high school. Seems like only yesterday that we found that $120 geometry book, the one alluded to in a letter from OPRF, as debilitating as a note from the village on the allegedly unpaid $20 parking ticket that is now crushing your windpipe at $70.

We found the book under the table in the hall. How it is that the new puppy hadn't chewed off its cover or peed on it, is a small miracle. So we hauled it over to the school bookstore for a credit. Still paid a late fee but that was OK. It was innocent, like found money — a hundred bucks in the pocket of your winter coat, an uncashed rebate check discovered at the bottom of a pile of bills.

But it wasn't yesterday. That was late June, when we could still hear the echo of that last school bell, and the summer was filled with sweet promise and fireflies and toast with jelly. The weight of endless 95-degree days that killed the grass and with it the sweet promise and made the fireflies turgid and the toast overly crisp, well that hadn't yet set in.

So we were happy as we strolled out from OPRF into the light of day. My kid had no summer school, no homework, and now she was free and clear with the bookstore. Life doesn't get much better than that.

Now, though, school is nigh. Class schedules, projects and extracurriculars. You know what that means. It means logistics. Drive here. Drop there. Remember this. Sign that. UPS, they might love their logistics. Me? I've had logistics right about up to here. And 10 weeks of being off duty just leaves me greedy for more logistics-free days. I like leaving the house early with my wife and daughter still sleeping. I like the morning light at 5 a.m. and sitting on the porch swing till nearly nine o'clock and still having a little light to read a book. Oh, summer.

With the weather finally cooling over the weekend, and school on people's minds, I have started to hear the chatter about "It's time. Won't it feel good to get back into the old harness?"

What are we, plow horses?! I'm more ready than ever to spit the bit. Don't want to remember which morning is late arrival at OPRF, and damned if they didn't change the day of the week just to force me to think about it. Don't want to dig out which variation on my usual password gets me into the high school's website (and yes, the new website is a giant upgrade from the previous obsolete model. Thank you.).

Am I cranky? Sure, just a bit. I'm sure I'll adjust. The smell of a just-sharpened pencil. That pile of color-coordinated notebooks just before they're stuffed into the decorator backpack. Yes, that is a moment. Hope, renewal, opportunity.

Yeah, right. It is just possible that I've "gone back to school" for one too many autumns. I've been going "back to school" for 51 years. Even in the vague memory of our early-married-before-there-were-kids years, Mary was a teacher and she was going back to school. Lesson plans and bulletin boards and kvetching about which kids were in her class — yes, children, teachers kvetch about you. By name. By impulse-control issue.

OK. I feel better. I'm nearly ready. Everybody up. Crack the books. It's the first day of the rest of our back-to-school lives.

Contact:
Email: dhaley@wjinc.com Twitter: @OPEditor

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