The smell of new pencils. Really white socks without any holes in them. The pristine cover of a new notebook. A backpack with both shoulder straps still attached.
It's time for school.
Once again we blithely hand over our children to a group of people we barely know and hope they will realize -- as we always have -- how extraordinary they truly are.
So I offer some observations on the start back to school -- this tradition that makes us all envy our children their opportunity to begin again, fresh and new.
* Is this the year your child stops you at the door and politely explains that he doesn't need you to take him into the building, that he is old enough to go it alone? Could this possibly be the first step to that fateful day when he would rather eat Thanksgiving dinner at his girlfriend's house than with you?
* Mothers shopping for school clothes with their sons can always be distinguished by the way we hover around the dressing room door calling out unheeded instructions: "Try the blue pair, you look so nice in blue. No, the blue one. Blue. Blue. Not the orange, you have nothing that goes with a pair of orange plaid shorts. There is nothing in the world that goes with a pair of orange plaid shorts!!"
This exchange is compounded by the fact that on the first day of school, all of the cool kids will be wearing orange plaid shorts and your child -- dressed in blue -- will be relegated to eating lunch with kids wearing pencil pocket protectors.
* On a positive note, once they are back in school, you will be able to talk on the phone without having your finger poised over the mute button. "Yes, doctor, thank you for returning my call." (Press mute: No, I have no idea if Sharon, Lois and Bram on the Elephant Show are all married to each other.) "I just had a question about the prescription (Press mute: I'm on the phone!) you gave me" (Press mute: That's it! Everyone's grounded for life.) for my nervous twitch. Is it refillable?"
* Before you commit to a trendy lunch box, I have only one warning: Remember the Rocketeer.
See you at the bus stop, Glen Burnie.
There are several new faces in the halls and classrooms of Glen Burnie-area schools. Following is a partial list, with the remainder to be published over the next two weeks.
* Glen Burnie Park Elementary was renovated during the summer. The 30-year-old school has been soundproofed against the noise from nearby Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
In addition, the school now boasts new air conditioning. According to PTO President Wanda Harding, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand tour has been planned for 10 a.m. Thursday to "show off our school."
The community is invited to attend for a sneak preview before classes start. Several guests are expected to join Principal Jerry Christianson and Mrs. Harding at the open house, including state Sen. Mike Wagner, Delegates Joan Cadden and Victor A. Sulin and Councilman Ed Middlebrooks.
Along with the improvements to the building, two new teachers have joined the staff: Donna Leone, as a part-time kindergarten teacher, and Donna DuPuis as a second-grade teacher.
Starting Monday, the new hours for the school will be 8:35 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.
For additional information, call the school office at -- yes, it's new too -- 222-6400.
* Another school in the area to benefit from the soundproofing project is Oakwood Elementary. School secretary Rosalie Metzger says the renovations have made a big improvement.
"It's like a new school with the sound abatement and the air conditioning. Now the students won't constantly be interrupted when a plane goes over," she said.
Greg Metrinko will be joining the staff at Oakwood as the school's new principal. He comes to Oakwood after several years at Linthicum Elementary.
Other newcomers to the school include Linda Tubman, who will teach a combined first and second grade; Lisa Brown, fourth grade; Robin Balimtas, reading specialist; and Clara Leister, media aide.
Oakwood's annual Open House for parents to meet the staff is scheduled for Sept. 10. The PTA president this year is Beth Hough.
For information concerning the new school year or registration -- information, call its new number, 222-6420.
* Principal Evelyn Reed once again will be working with a new administrative trainee this year at Point Pleasant Elementary School. Don Leuscher has joined the staff this fall to help oversee the two-building campus at Point Pleasant.
In addition to Leuscher, there are five new teachers at the school: Dana Giroux, teaching at Intensity Level IV special education; Valerie Patton, resource; Susan Bresson, part-time art; Ron Russell, part-time physical education; Judy Parks, part-time music.
Another change over at Point Pleasant is that Kathy Wick will be the new reading resource teacher after Lois Bock's transfer to Millersville Elementary.
Keith Johnson will continue in his second year as PTA president.
For information, call the school office, 222-6425.
* Richard Henry Lee Elementary will start the year with Wayne Bark as the new principal, replacing Lauralee Whitmore, who retired last spring. Bark joins the faculty and staff after two years at Overlook Elementary. In addition to his regular responsibilities, Bark will be working with administrative trainee Joan Briscoe.
Other personnel additions at the school include: Jeanette Callis, third-grade teacher; Ethel Bilderback, pupil personnel worker; and Wilber Oden, custodial staff.
This year's PTA presidency will be shared by Lisa Case and Debbie Crockett. Last year, the PTA began improving the playground equipment. The project is almost complete and returning students can use the new equipment.
To contact the school office, call 222-6435.
* There are several changes at Rippling Woods Elementary, including the addition of a new administrative trainee, Diana Stohecker, to work with Principal Norbert Paga.
The new faculty additions are Michele Kelly and JoAnn Miller, kindergarten; Donald Bailey and Janis Kristof, second grade; Lorna Kolasheski and Timothy Merrit, fourth grade; Barbara Svoboda, part-time art; Brett Musser, part-time music; and Dorothy Smally, health aide.
Two teachers at Rippling have changed grades. Brenda Schonener has moved from fourth to second grade and Andrea Phillips from first to fourth.
Jim Poole is the PTA president this year.
Parents should note the new school hours -- 9:15 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.
For information, call the school office at 222-6440.
* On the middle school level, Marley Middle will welcome six new members to its staff.
Pat Adkins, the new sixth-grade counselor, met with several parents and students at the recent sixth-grade orientations.
Other additions to the faculty include Jackie Dean, special education; Joan Shores, math and science; Anna McKenna, home economics; Margaret Galloway, art; and Patricia Thibodeaux, language arts and math.
The new PTA slate of officers is Pat Elswick, president; Brenda Budd, secretary; Lynn Kampe, treasurer. The office of vice president is currently vacant, and a volunteer is being sought. Anyone interested should call 766-5733 for information.
For Marley Middle information, call the school office at 761-0934.
Students who still need vaccines to update their immunization records can schedule an appointment at the Glen Burnie Health Center, 416 A Street, S.W.
To accommodate the needs of the community, the center has extended its scheduled immunization clinic to include the following times:
* Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
* Wednesday, Sept. 2, 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
* Wednesday, Sept. 9, 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
* Wednesday, Sept. 16, 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
* Saturday, Sept. 19, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The immunizations are free, but a $5 donation would be appreciated.
To schedule an appointment, call the health center at 222-6633.
Grab your swimsuit Friday night and head to the Country Club Estates Recreation Association's End of Summer Youth Dance and Pool Party.
The activities begin at 7 p.m., with dancing to the music of disc jockey Beth Hogue and continue until 10 p.m.
Admission is $5 per person and includes a free hot dog and soft drink.
Parents are welcome to attend as chaperons.
For information, call 760-5053.