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I've been thinking about … back to school.

I love the Fall. It has always felt more like the beginning of the year rather than the end of one season and the portents of the cold to come. I think it is because I always loved school and the excitement and anticipation of getting back there. There was always a new red plaid dress and penny loafers for the first day of school and my mother would braid my long blond hair. And, of course, there was always a new pencil box with a compass and protractor. If you were really fancy, the pencil box had a drawer in the bottom of it.

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It cost us 12 cents a week for a daily gill of milk and we went home for lunch. My mother liked to serve Campbell's Tomato Soup and grilled cheese sandwiches while we listened to "Our Gal Sunday" on the radio. To this day I smile when I have tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.

It may be a little unusual but true that I went to the same grammar school that my mother and her mother attended, The Cathedral Grammar School, a huge, red brick fortress of a building, housing grades one through eight. It served the Parish for over 150 years. I can still see the shiny wood floors, polished to fair thee well by the janitor, Mr. Brennan, and I still love the smell of whatever it was he used to get that shine. The classrooms were all big and sunny and they all had those beautiful Regulator clocks with pendulums that swung back and forth ticking off the minutes in our day. In the basement of the school was a large area which housed the Parish St. Vincent de Paul Mission. No child in our school ever wanted for warm clothing or shoes. Remember, we are talking about Vermont here. It gets cold up there. At any given time, the Cathedral Grammar School held 800 children.

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We were taught by the Sisters of Mercy. That was when they still wore the black habit with the white bib and wimple. I remember there were close to 50 children in my first-grade class and Sister Mary Theodosia didn't have a bit of trouble keeping order. That was because even little children understood that these women had dedicated their lives to our education and were worthy of our respect. And besides, we all understood that if we got in trouble at school our parents would believe Sister's story and not ours. After all, Sisters don't fib, children might.

I had Sisters of Mercy for all of my primary and secondary education. They were highly educated and completely dedicated to us students. I didn't get to college till I was in my 30 but I had the Sisters of Mercy to thank for my good study habits, the ability to follow directions, to get assignments handed in on time, a thirst for knowledge and the capacity to gobble up any piece of information anyone wanted to give me.

I wish all the students in Carroll County a wonderful, productive school year. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn something new or to add to what you already know. Believe me when I tell you that with hard work, anything is possible.

Audrey Cimino is executive director of The Community Foundation of Carroll County. She writes from Westminster.

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