Summer vacation time is in full swing for the kids in Chautauqua County. The weeks ahead will continue to be filled with summer camps, vacation Bible schools, swimming, biking and plenty of just "hanging out" time, perfect for savoring the joys of Western New York's little corner of paradise.
But for kids here in southwest Florida, summer vacation has come to an end far too soon. Schools reopen here in early August, almost a month ahead of their New York counterparts.
Whether up north or down south, school kids are once again gearing up for classroom time.
Although my back-to-school days took place a very long time ago, I still recall the mixture of dread and excitement my pals and I felt as the first day of classes drew near. I was eager to get back to school since I enjoyed the challenges and rewards of learning.
But for neighborhood chums like Robert and Charlie, the thought of trading the freedom of vacation time for the structured life of school days was almost unbearable.
Yet whether we were happy about returning to the classroom or dreaded the day, we all looked forward to that special event known as back-to-school shopping.
Armed with a list of must-have items for each student, families would head to the local "Five and Dime" store. In our case it was Mott's, where Mr. Mott had supplied school needs for generations of family members.
Although Mom was a single parent on a tight budget in those long-ago days, she never scrimped when it came to school supplies for my sister, Lynn, and me.
I considered Lynn's list much more interesting than mine. It always included a three-ring binder and plenty of paper. Each year, Lynn would chose a notebook with a cloth cover, which she would quickly personalize into a colorful creation.
Unlike the exciting items Lynn needed for her classes, mine seemed mundane and drab.
For instance, there was no selection involved in the standard writing tablets, emblazoned with samples of Palmer script.
The yellow No. 2 pencils, the wooden rulers, the red rubber erasers....all were ho-hum materials allowing no opportunity to exercise my creativity.
But when it came to the Crayons......ah, here I finally had a choice.
My mother, who knew her youngest child so well, would stand by patiently as I agonized over which box of Crayons to claim.
Eventually, I would talk Mom into buying the largest box she could afford. If I was really lucky, the box would be enhanced with a built-in sharpener.
I thought about those long-ago shopping trips recently when I came across a list of the school supplies recommended for today's returning students.
Some items were actually the same as those we bought in my back-to-school days. Those ever-faithful No. 2 yellow pencils, for example, haven't changed.
But there were many essentials on the current list that didn't even exist in my school days. For instance, ball point pens and water-based markers are key additions to today's student supplies. And glue sticks and highlighters are also necessities that have come along since my school days.
Then there's that vital carry-it-all that we never enjoyed: today's ever-present backpack.
In addition to different supplies, the students heading back to school in 2013 will be using such amazing learning tools as computers, calculators and other marvelous devices not dreamed of in my school days.
My hope for each of these young and eager minds is that they will be open and receptive to the expanding worlds of information in order to build a better future for themselves and generations to come.