The return of Pac-Man

I went back to school last week. The smell of fresh wax nearly overwhelmed me as I headed down the hall to the classroom.

It’s the ritual end of summer at the Mitchell house: Our son Joe and I help Jenny get her classroom ready for a new crop of fourth graders. By Saturday when we made the trip to her school in Oxford, she had gotten a two-day head start, moving desks and beginning to unpack boxes of books and supplies stored over the summer.
A “start” was what it was, though. She had gotten all the desks back in place after the waxing, but yet-to-be-unpacked boxes were everywhere. My first thought was that I was fortunate to have remembered to take two Advil before leaving home.
There wasn’t time for a second thought before Jenny started giving us assignments: Joe was to get the student computers set up and working along one wall. (Jenny knows better than assign me a technology job.)
Mine was to hang something called a “pocket chart” on the recently painted wall using some of those new (at least new to me) removable Command hooks. I tried to look like I knew what I was doing, but she soon came over and helped. Those hooks are pretty neat, once you get the “hang” of it.
Then I sorted the five textbooks each child gets into the 27 numbered “cubbies” along one wall. Each book has a little green neon sticker inside the front cover with a number to match the cubby number.
Just as I was finishing up (and thinking how tired I was of sorting books), Jenny pointed to four large cardboard boxes of paperback books next to six empty shelves in two bookcases. The bookcase shelves were labeled by Accelerated Reader level.
“Oh, no,” I thought, as I picked up the first book and noticed one of Jenny’s little round stickers on the cover with a reading level number written on it. There must have been 300 books to sort.
As I was finishing up, Jenny and Joe had moved on to the major project of the day – creating a display on the four-foot-high, eight-foot-long corkboard in the hallway outside her room door. Every year Jenny thinks up some new display to try to outdo last year (and I suspect other teachers’ bulletin boards on her hall). Even though she bristles at the suggestion, it looks like a competition to me.
Anyhow, this year Joe suggested a Pac-Man game maze. The maze would be filled with colorful little books and each of her 47 kids’ names (two classes) would be on a yellow Pac-Man. The display’s title: “Game On! Let’s Gobble Up Books.”
A couple hundred pieces of paper, several arguments and three hours later, we were all grouchy and hungry, but nearly finished. It had been an awful lot of work.
We stopped to admire the maze. Joe even took a picture of it on his phone to email to a friend.
“It looks pretty snazzy,” I said.
“Yeah, I’ll probably leave it up three or four weeks before putting up something new,” Jenny said.
“What?” I thought, but I kept my mouth shut. I’ve mellowed with age.

T. Wayne Mitchell, Gazette publisher, can be reached at 662-534-6321.