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Trip to New Jersey yields column fodder

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:52 PM

These are the last days of summer. Yes, I know summer officially ends toward the end of September, but for teachers and students, summer actually ends when school begins which is less than two weeks away. The countdown to the end of summer begins in late July or early August, when department stores already start displaying back-to-school items. I know the end of summer is coming soon when the Erie County Fair starts, and school is almost on top of us when as this week the Huron County Fair takes place.

I was taking my usual evening walk and trying to come up with a topic for this week's column, but my mind kept drifting to making plans for what I'll be teaching during the first week of school. That, too, is a sign that summer is almost over.

I didn't have much success coming up with a coherent column topic, and I blame it on the end of summer. I'd love to write a novel, but after so many years of writing Family Matters, my thoughts come in column-lengths, not novel-lengths. And, tonight, my thoughts are not even column-length. They are fragmented: paragraph-length at best. And so today, to honor the end of summer, I present a series of random thoughts.

I remember when my own children were elementary-school-age, and one of the most exciting days of the end of the summer was when the newspaper published the class lists. We would find out each child's teacher, and which of his or her friends would be in the same class. We looked forward to this information; it would allay fears and help predict the type of school year to come. But did you know that teachers, too, get excited about the class lists? I look forward to finding out which students will be in my classes.

We recently took a car trip to New Jersey for my mother's birthday, and as an English teacher, I'm always looking for interesting words on signs along the road. The things that interest me are clever plays on words. Here are two of them. One was outside a church, and it said "To belittle is to be little" a clever way of saying not to put other people down. Another was outside a business that manufactured signs. The sign outside the business said "Come see the Signtist" (a play on "scientist"). It took me a while to get that one.

Talking about trips to New Jersey, it always amuses me to be re-acquainted with the New Jersey sense of geography. It was once my own before moving to Ohio. One New Jerseyite asked me if we, in Ohio, are in the same time zone as New Jersey. And my brother's father-in-law, when discussing our car trip, announced that Pennsylvania is very flat and doesn't take more than an hour to cross. (FYI, Pennsylvania is quite mountainous, and is about 300 miles from west to east.) He'd never been west of New Jersey.

I was trying to explain to some New Jersey relatives about the county fair, but it's hard to put into words. ... A place where people from all over the county gather, where farm animals are displayed, where the best flowers, vegetables and animals win blue ribbons, where there is delicious greasy food and wonderful entertainment, where members of 4-H clubs show their hard work (but in New Jersey, they only read about 4-H clubs), where there are rides, politicians, commercial booths, livestock auctions. ... The fair is hard to put into words. You just have to be there which is where I'll be tonight. See you there?

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