My older daughter, Thing 1, by starting 6th Grade, is now in Middle School, and is about to embark on a right of passage that kids her age all over the country have been doing for generations. It's something I myself did when I was her age, and her reaching this point in life fills me with nostalgia.
Covering text books.
Now that she's in Middle School, and has assigned text books, she is of course responsible for their long-term care over the next 9 months, and every school system across the country has kids at this same age take their books home and cover them. This ensures the cover of the book has that nice bright sheen to it for years, which is important when you're researching the capitals of Czechoslovakia and the USSR.
When I was this age, the standard was to use cut-up brown paper grocery bags, measured to fit, held together with tape, and would often last until the second to last month of school. In the interim, the book cover would get covered with doodles of all sorts. Favorite book quotes, favorite rock lyrics (I think anyone who looked at my books would have seen a strong belief in the ideal of not getting fooled again), names of girls, and of course the subject of the book (History for the boys, and History with a little bubble heart over the i for the girls). The extremely hopeless would buy store-bought book covers (usually covered in pictures of Strawberry Shortcake and other girly images). Well, the hopeless and those who had no older siblings to teach them how to cover a textbook (I had 2 older brothers, so I became an expert quickly). Basically, if you were cool, you had the brown paper cover. If not, you had store-bought. Every September, when we would go back to school, our parents would set aside a bunch of paper grocery sacks from the store and the dining room table would become a slaughterhouse of cut up brown paper, like some craft project gone seriously wrong.
Flash forward 27 years, and now it's Thing 1's turn. Her teachers have informed her that her books will have to get covered. Personally, I was excited over the prospect to teach Thing 1 the same skill my brothers taught me decades ago, and that I taught to my younger brother. It was a this point though that it was pointed out to me that this product is available in stores: Book Sox. Socks for books. Stretchy fabric covers that slip over the books and held in place with some sort of elastic, I guess. As the website says, "no measuring, no cutting, no taping." What the hell fun is that??? If we've lost the ability to cover our own textbooks, what will we lose next? The ability to defend our own borders?
This of course brings up the big question.....since Thing 1 is our oldest, we have no idea if other kids actually buy these, or if they're only purchased by the insanely hopeless like in my day. If we cover her books in brown paper bags from Kroger, will Thing 1 be elevated to the ranks of "cool kids"? Or will she be forever labeled as a "poor kid"? If we buy the Book Sox, will she be seen as some helpless geek that can't figure out how to cover a book? Or will she be at the same level as someone wearing a Twilight t-shirt from Hot Topic? These are the things we need to know to avoid getting our daughter branded as something negative.
I figured Middle School would be easy for Thing 1, since I knew which mistakes to avoid. Unfortunately, after so much time has passed, they probably changed the rules, and the mistakes are completely different than the ones I made. Somehow, it doesn't seem fair.