Back to School

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I had heard that pregnancy affected memory, but I always thought it was a slowness to recall phone numbers we use sporadically or anniversary dates from distant relatives. But no, apparently what happens are real memory failures.

So that, me being pregnant, it became normal to forget everything. Because of that, I found myself at the supermarket at 9:00 pm Monday to buy things that I forgot to buy in the 4 supermarkets I visited on Sunday.

They were decorating and replacing the school supplies. My memory clicked and I had a flashback. I felt the excitement of buying new material for school, the choice, the eagerness to see the new books and to use everything asap.

I do not know when / where did you go to elementary school, but in Portugal in the 80s / 90s it was like this:


The ritual of plastifying school books

First of all, as soon as the books arrived from the bookstore they had to be plastified with self-adhesive paper. Most opted for the classic transparent but there were always the boldest ones that chose stained glass effects with colors and textures.

Mine were always transparent and the artist named was my father. I remember perfectly the excitement of the moment. He cleared the table, set the roll of paper, the books, the scissors, and a handkerchief.


While my father took measurements, counted squares and cut the paper, I took a lot of attention to the technique of making the corners without overlaps and giving no more than 2 squares of margin to make sure it look beautiful.

I was pull the paper back and he rubbed the plastic part with his handkerchief in a scientific so that there were no blisters. If any escaped, in the end he would let me bust it with a needle. My books were always the prettiest (and I was a proud owner).


We had a diary notebook

The cover was yellow in most cases. But I could also have a chess pattern that was very fashionable at the time, as can be proved by the pictures of my first day in school, in a dress with a Scottish pattern and huge red collars.

Every day we wrote the date, the school, the number of the lesson, the lesson of the day and the following homework. I remember perfectly the drama of not being able to pull pages when I made a mistake and thinking the notebook would be totally ruined.


The myth of the pen eraser

And that was just that, a myth. It never worked, but we continued to insist, convinced that one day we would master the art of erasing pen writing.

It always ended (at best) with the sheet almost tearing and the ink all smeared. There were rubbers of these that were round and that ended up having utility, like wheels of imaginary cars for example.


Radical was having the multiplication table in a pencil

Having the mouse multiplication table was pretty mainstream because they would not let us use it in the tests or evaluations. Having the tablet in pencil however, was the height of the radical we could aspire to.

I never had one but I remember well the important my colleagues that had one felt and the fuss that they did to hide them from the teacher (at the same time that they ensured that the whole group knew).


We could use sharp things

I remember quite well enjoying the perforating activities. I have no idea what the purpose of the perforation was, but I know it was a lot of fun.

I can still hear the characteristic noise of the perforation well done, as if they were small blisters bursting. When the technique failed, it was noticeable only by the sound of it. We realized that instead of a series of small, uniform holes we would have a huge hole in the sheet.

I have the idea that today this is no longer done in elementary school, probably because it can be dangerous for children to handle a pin that big. I remember, perfectly, finishing the perforation quickly and passing the rest to the time of the activity trying to stick the pin on the skin of my fingers so that it was stuck there but without making blood.

A danger to health and psychological development that I hope to be able to teach my son in a few years.