Catherine Ford Gets Personal

One year: A challenge for change


with one comment

Whatever the date on the calendar, every adult knows that real life resumes when school starts. The first day of school is the second New Year’s Day of the year. And it’s likely more welcome for parents than the actual date of January 1.

September brings regular routine back and such routines are necessary when there are children around. There are lunches to pack and dinners to plan and bedtime negotiations to be dealt with. While I’ve managed to escape all of that in my adult life, even childless people move to the rhythm of every school year. Maybe it’s something that’s bred in the bone.

Calgary’s public and separate school students start school tomorrow, on September 2. The year-round schools went back to the books a month ago. Many of Calgary’s private schools started classes last week. But whatever school or program a student attends — and I’m old-fashioned enough to believe school shouldn’t start until the Tuesday after Labour Day — the entire city has a different rhythm come September.

Educational experts have deemed this question moot. Moot as in open to debate or discussion. Really, they don’t care if you’ve planned holidays right through to this coming long weekend, they and not you, decide.

And what administrators have decided in recent years is that schools are no longer “public” places. The latest wrinkle in school-as-prison involves making the kids wear lanyards with photo identification, the better to control who’s in the school and who doesn’t belong there. I’m old enough to shudder at the thought of having to produce “papers” to identify yourself, whether that’s to go to school or to buy something with a credit card at Shopper’s Drug Mart. The latter’s feeble explanation about “security” falls on my uncaring ears.

And no, thank you, I do not want to “buy” a bag if I’ve just spent a couple of hundred dollars on non-essential cosmetics. And spare me the supercilious explanation about how it’s all about the environment; it’s about saving the drug store a bundle in plastic bags while the corporation is allowed to feel smug about it’s “contribution” to the ecology of the planet. Frankly, if the planet is your concern, give me a bio-degradable paper bag for my purchases and spare me the lecture.

Speaking of which, I managed to drop a few hundred dollars at The Bay a couple of weeks ago, and being a good global citizen, this time I remembered to bring a bag because The Bay has also jumped on the “look what we’re doing for the planet” bandwagon. It was a re-useable Safeway bag, but apparently The Bay doesn’t care what kind of a bag, as long as you produce one or buy one.

If you think my nose gets out of joint when the clerk in Shopper’s tries to sell me a bag while willingly taking my money, imagine my reaction when the smarmy Bay clerk asked if I needed a bag while ringing up hundreds of dollars on my account. Need a bag? This snippy women has to stand on her tippy-toes to peer over the pile of bathroom towels (6 bath towels; 3 bath sheets; 8 hand towels; four facecloths; three bath mats and a toilet-seat cover) sitting on the counter and she wants to know if I need a bag? I brandished the one I brought and asked if she thought, in her infinite wisdom, that this pile of stuff — pointing at the towels I had spontaneously bought — would fit in this bag I was waving around? Maybe I was Merlin the Magician and I could wave my wand and everything would magically transport itself to the car?

But, again, I digress. This was supposed to be about schools and school lunches and nutrition and how we all get back into the usual rhythm of life in September, even those of us without school-age children or any reason to follow a schedule.

Instead, this is about some of the irritations in life that vanish during the summer when life is not as regimented. And “regimented” seems to be the best word to describe the parlous state of our schools, desperate to deflect crazies, nutbars, and students with mayhem, mischief or murder on their minds.

Security has become the password of our civilization, whether we are dealing with airlines or schools. When I was working full-time I resisted for as long as possible wearing an electronic card that would open the outside doors and, naturally, tell whoever kept the records what times I entered and what times I left. Exactly what is the difference, I asked nobody in particular, between that and punching a time clock? That is a form of personal humiliation meted out to hourly workers in factories who apparently can’t be trusted to put in a full day.

But those arguments are long lost. At least we have not, as yet, insisted every child be “fitted” with a microchip to identify them, in the same way we insert a microchip into our pets’ bodies.

Oh, that’s right — cell phones with GPS systems do about the same thing, although phones can be easily passed from one teen to another. Still, given the pervasiveness of cell phones these days, what kid needs to borrow one? They all seem to have their own, glued to their ears along with their iPods.

September brings new chances, I believe, and this is partly why I started this blog last September, although the prime reason was my looming “senior” birthday in early October and my seeming inability to walk 18 holes of our golf course without being fatigued. So, while I won’t be hitting the books this month, or teaching any classes, my rhythms change with the school season, too.

For the past couple of weeks our newspapers have been filled with back-to-school stories about everything from physical education to non-boring lunches: How to tempt your kids who take their lunches to school.

This, I have never understood: if there is a single group of people who do not like change, do not want to deal with it and resist it with all their little might, it’s children. Some of us never grow out of that. I’m one. Sometimes my husband asks why, when we go for lunch in Canmore, I insist on eating the same thing — to the point that the Sage Bistro server doesn’t even bother giving me a menu any more, just pours me a Grumpy Bear from the Canmore-based micro-brewery, Grizzly Paw, and waits patiently for Ted to decide which of the menu items he’ll try that day.

It’s not that I’m against change, per se, but when you find something you love, why switch to something else? Isn’t that the reason most of us get married?

And my favourite saying about time and change comes from Marcel Proust, whose taste of a madeleine cake dipped in tea causes him to relive his childhood: “Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have retained of them.”

So, forgive the rambling and the rant and next time, I’ll talk about school and food.

NEXT: All I ever wanted was a roast-beef sandwich.


Written by Catherine Ford

September 1, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Your September post – which you called rambling – evoked so many thoughts! You’re right, September is a New Year. I always loved the blank pages in new scirbblers and new pens and pencils. This year, for me, although children at school are no longer a direct responsibility – I begin a new year grandparenting our youngest grandson on Fridays now his mom’s maternity leave from her teaching position is finished. Ah September! And the sandwiches – well – I’ll wait for your next post as all you wanted was Roast Beef and all I wanted was peanut butter.

    Jennifer Diakiw

    September 2, 2010 at 7:53 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: