Smells like school spirit

Back to school looks different in 2020, but feels the same

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Fall-scented candles are unrealistic. That isn’t to say they don’t smell absolutely wonderful. Who can say no to cinnamon, apple, carmel and warm, abstract smells meant to imitate freshly washed flannel?

But we all know the true smell of fall. It’s a dampness that sneaks through the open bedroom window at 6 a.m. in the form of a startlingly cool breeze. It’s the smell of dead grass after a light rain, or of the garden plants returning to the earth after a long summer of production.

The author and her sisters prepare for the first day of school, circa 2005. Photo by Cindy Kiebert.

For me, the first whiffs of fall have always meant my favorite holiday was on its way: the first day of school. Aside from the clear nerdiness this imparts — which should not surprise anyone — it marked my love for fresh starts and new routines. 

I’d lay out my clothes days in advance and still recall key pieces of those very fashionable moments: hot pink chopsticks for my hair, the bright white of rubber on new Converse sneakers, the crisp zipper on a prized sweatshirt. New school supplies had to be one of my favorite parts of the whole ordeal — my irrational love for blank notebooks persists to this day.

The first day of school marked a milestone, and a beginning. The anticipation bubbled up in such a way that even now, as an adult with little of substance in my life to mark the seasons, the smell of fall still makes me giddy.

After six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve reached a point of major change, and one where kids are going to be a main focus. Are they adjusting? Are they learning? Are they safe?

For many children in North Idaho, the commencement of the 2020-2021 school year marks a welcome change. There are kids in our community who depend on school as a social outlet, a safe haven and the place where they receive two vital meals a day. I remember the excitement of the first day of school as someone who had a consistent and enjoyable home life while growing up. For those whose experience is not the same, I imagine the excitement is 10-fold, despite how different academic settings might look this year.

Here’s to new shoes, unsharpened pencils and fresh beginnings in the cool, heavy air. Happy first day of school, Bonner County.

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