Bellevue Herald-Leader

  The newspaper and social media were abuzz with photos of kids heading out on their first day of the school year a few weeks ago. I love seeing how kids have grown and declaring what they want to be when they grow up on their little slates.

 My favorite so far, a few years ago, is my grandson wanting to grow up to be a penguin. I think it was the one in Pre K, not the one who was a senior. And why wouldn't you want to be a penguin?  Everybody likes penguins. My neice and nephew's little guy was pictured with his name on the driveway and a plastic knife in his hand.  They are hoping he grows up to be a chef and not a serial killer.

  I don't think parents realize how easy they have it taking pictures of their little tykes today.  They just have to aim a phone, which they are usually attached to anyway. In the olden days before we could take a photograph we had to a) find the camera  b)buy and load it with the correct film c) buy and install batteries, (because they were always dead) buy and install flash bulbs which were only good for 1 photo or flashcubes, with four flashes e) yell at the kid because he is tired of waiting  f) take picture of him with teary eyes  g) take somewhere to get film developed  h) pick up (and pay for) pictures two weeks later  i) realize that you had the strap of your Instamatic over the lens and all of your pictures are ruined (well, maybe the strap thing only happened to me).  So  by the time you discover that your envelope of pictures are all bad, the Kodak moment is long gone.

  And that is why the only picture most of us had taken/took was on the first day of kindergarten, not every year.

   For some reason, still not quite clear to me, there were always several pictures left on a roll of film.  Thus, by the time I got the film developed, the ensuing pictures were always a surprise.  Sometimes I would have Easter pictures on the same roll as Christmas pics (we never used to call them pics). We didn't just randomly take pictures for no reason.  It had to be a monumental occasion.   Imagine paying for film and developing only to discover someone's eyes were closed in every shot.  So if there are only about three pictures of you, especially if you were the youngest child, now you understand why.

  And for a while, when developing, places offered "Free" double prints.  So I had not only one set of bad pictures, but two.  And I still have them.  Why?  I have no idea.  My kids are really going to hate me if I die before I get around to doing something with them.

  I had a morning talk show (they used to be news shows) on recently and along with all the other "back to school" items they were hawking there was a new one that surely seems to be a sign of the times...a bulletproof backpack for kids.  Now, I may have mentioned this before, but back in the olden days when I went to school our biggest fear was being whopped upside the head by one of the good sisters or having to orbit the block around school carrying all of your books in your bookbag. I never had to fear for my life...well, maybe, there was this one time when....oh, never mind.

  According to a survey done by the National Retail Federation, families with children that will be attending school this fall, only plan to spend an average of $634.78. This is down from last year's $688.62.  I double-checked the figures.  They are correct.  I really don't know what school supplies kids need now (maybe a car or a phone or perhaps the Kevlar backpack) but a far cry from the fifties when we needed a few number 2 pencils, a tablet with a picture of a shock of wheat on the front, a ruler, a green eraser,  a jar of paste, a pencil case (unless last years was deemed usable) and crayons... not the holy grail of crayons, the box of 64 with a sharpener in back... but standard issue 24 count.  Ah, I can still remember the new smell.

  I was alive before ballpoint pens. Really!  We had ink wells in our desks for dipping fountain pens and soon after the "Schaeffer ink cartridge fountain pen" replaced the messy bottles.  (While I was checking to see if Schaeffer had two f's, I discover they are still selling the pens and cartridges with pens starting at $18 and cartridges coming in at $6.29.) Who knew?

  So everyone agrees they can't believe summer is over and another school year has begun.    

  I can't believe it has been 60 some years and I can still remember the smell of the new school supplies.