19 January 2015

The Supply Closet: An example of sensory writing

My sister Beth and I went to the same elementary school. I was delighted to read her description of the supply closet at the Boulder City Elementary School. Beth uses sensory details to take the reader right into her scene. Her detailed description and obvious love for this small place in her personal history allows us to experience it with her. Read on for a treat:

The halls of my elementary school still come to me in my dreams.  I remember the two story building and its shiny linoleum covered switchback stairs, the centers depressed slightly from years of hundreds of hurrying children heading out for recess or else home.
Boulder City Elementary School, 1932 (photo before our time
there) located at 401 California Avenue, now City Hall.
Bureau of Reclamation Collection from University of Nevada,
Las Vegas, University Libraries
Going down the last set of stairs could take me right out the door once I crossed the hall on the first floor, but there was a major attraction on the left and it always caught my attention—the Supply Closet.
This small fragrant room doubled as a janitor’s cubby, and there upon the shelves above a long and large wooden-handled mop and folded up dust rags, sat reams of paper, creamy ivory paper with turquoise dashed lines printed across the landscape to guide my childish and earnest attempts in make letters properly. Long narrow boxes held yellow pencils, lined up perfectly as soldiers, pink erasers unspoiled atop each pencil, waiting individually to be chosen, stacked on top of each other.  Next to them were the heavy round tubs of paste, white, sticky and solid. Unscrewing the lid gave off a smell like peppermint and I admit I furtively sampled it at my desk occasionally when I thought no one would see. Chalk, cylindrical, yellow and smooth with sharply flattened ends gave themselves away as brand new and unused.  Long erasers with a sponge on one side and some kind of chamois fabric on the other lined up next to the chalk, the feel of which gave me a shudder across my shoulders.
But my favorite of the supplies was the construction paper.  It was heavy! The brown paper wrapped bundles were stacked and lined up on wood shelving, waiting.  The color hidden inside was identified by small black printing at the end of each perfectly rectangular package—red, orange, yellow--all the rainbow hues plus black and brown, and then there was white, the color of endless prospects.  The world was at my fingertips when I held a sheet of this paper.  Colors were vibrant and true applied to white construction paper, and the weight of the paper made it so erasers erased properly when a sketch began to go awry.  Cutting the paper was another treat—no flimsy spineless sheet of anything else could compete. The small silver scissors were allowed broad strokes along the high contrast lines of creation as the paper stood erect and at attention while it was being worked and shaped.  The white paper had a cousin, manila, that was close in competition.  It, too, was a little more rigid and easier to work with than “plain” paper, but the off white color paled the intensity of crayon and tempera paint soaked the fibers more quickly than pure white.
In the classroom, inevitably the call came from the teacher, “Who would be willing to go to the supply closet?”  I raised my flapping hand high enough I had to support my arm with the other hand, hoping to be chosen for a trip downstairs. My quick pace inevitably turned to super slow motion as I reached the closet door, propped open with a wooden triangle block jammed underneath it, and the single light bulb suspended from the ceiling lit up possibilities. The warmth of the room made the contents seem even friendlier, and I caressed the art and learning supplies, curiously touching each item up and down the shelf as I carried out the errand.
Even today, opening a package of construction paper, although not made like the stuff I had as a child, fills me with anticipation and something about the smell of the paper speaks of possibilities and within, the creative juices begin to flow.

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