Purchase collections of Elizabeth Hudson’s columns at ourstatestore.com. Among the most commonplace joys, the simplest pleasures, from elementary school that I’m sure I took for granted: homemade chicken pie, steaming
Purchase collections of Elizabeth Hudson’s columns at ourstatestore.com.
Among the most commonplace joys, the simplest pleasures, from elementary school that I’m sure I took for granted: homemade chicken pie, steaming hot, ladled onto my lunch tray by the cafeteria ladies; a spinning rack of paperbacks from which we got to choose on Fridays for an hour of blissfully silent reading time; visits to the Farmer School store, a makeshift room in the concession area of the gymnasium, tended daily by two older students — eighth graders! — who sold pink eraser caps and pencils imprinted with the name of our school and its mascot, the Farmer Falcons.
(Why did we have a store? I’d like to think that it was one of those 1970s experiments in the progressive education movement to encourage universal life skills, lessons in responsible finance and commerce. Our own pedagogical lemonade stand.)
We made frequent trips to the pencil sharpener mounted on the wall at the back of the classroom, our fists clutching the yellow No. 2s that we stored in the pencil pouches of the book satchels we carried. I don’t remember backpacks until college, and it was around that time I traded pencils for pens anyway, feeling more confident, I suppose, in the permanence of ink on paper.
I recall the muscle-memory motion of cranking the sharpener’s handle, of shoving a pencil through the dial that rotated to accommodate varying widths, of calibrating the proper pressure — too gentle and you’d jag the wood; too forceful and you’d grind the pencil to a stub. By day’s end, that sharpener, fed by the fidgety energy of fourth graders, would overflow, its shavings piling up like an anthill on the floor.
I loved trips to Connell Phillips Office Supply in Asheboro with my mom. While she bought supplies for her crafts shop, I doodled on the tester pads with the Prismacolors, inhaled the scented markers, and practiced my cursive signature with the Parker calligraphy pens.
One of the first shops in the Randolph Mall when it opened in 1982 was a store called Calligraphy Collection. It sold pens and nibs and specialty papers, but also cards and prints with meticulously hand-lettered quotes, sayings, proverbs. Words made into art.
At home, my dad kept a pencil jar on his worktable in the garage, mostly filled with carpenters’ pencils that he sharpened by hand with his pocketknife. He’d take his time, carving away the wood in long, deliberate strokes, honing the graphite to a perfect pinpoint. He was a note taker, a list maker, always with a memo pad in his shirt pocket and a pencil behind his ear. He worked the crossword puzzle every day, and I can still imagine him flattening and creasing the newspaper with the barrel side of a pencil, preparation for the satisfaction of filling in the squares.
I’m certainly no Luddite. I clatter away on a keyboard all day, keep grocery lists on my iPhone, and rely on GPS navigation. But as the world seems to move faster and faster, I find myself remembering things that once made me the happiest. A homemade chicken pie. A handwritten note. And memories of people and places that no amount of time or technology can erase.
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