The thing I enjoyed most about going back to school in the fall as a kid -- well, the only thing I enjoyed, honestly -- was going "school shopping" with my mom about a week or so before I was due back in class. There were only two times a year that we would reliably go clothes shopping: in September to stock up for the essentials to wear to get me through the long winter and the muddy spring, and then right after school let out in late May or early June for summer gear. The fall shopping run was exciting, usually a full day at the Brookfield Square mall, which included a stop for lunch at Woolworth's for a patty melt, fries, and a chocolate malt, and then back to business. I loved it. It was fun to look at all the pretty clothes. (I may remind you that in the '60s we girl children weren't allowed to wear pants to school unless the temperature was below zero. Yes, this was a public school.) I liked the clothes, the shiny new shoes, and the pencils, and the paper, and the tiny scissors, and the pink erasers, all of it.

In 1968 as I was getting ready to begin 1st grade, one school purchase was more important than any other: the lunchbox. Everyone had a lunchbox. Well, 99% anyway -- the kids with the brown paper, that was sad because there were SO many COOL lunchboxes! Your lunchbox was your identity; it told the other kids who you were, what you liked the MOST. I never figured out the kids who showed up with the "plaid" lunchbox. I had never had a lunchbox before, and as I faced the huge display at JC Penneys, I didn't know how I was ever going to be able to make a decision. Here were some of my choices then:

Sister Bertrille was cool...

A LOT of people had this one...

Oh, I LOVED Laugh-In...

...but not so much Major League Baseball or Chuck Connors...

Star Trek? Land of the Giants? Get Smart?

No, not you.

As soon as I spotted choice was EASY. BOOM! That one, I said to my mom, that's the one I want. A crazy-looking psychedelic metal box, made by Thermos, that read "The Beatles Yellow Submarine," which was their new animated film due out later in the fall. That's IT. And I still have it.

Hmm...does it seem to be...missing something there? NAH! OF COURSE, I still have the thermos!

I was so proud to carry that, and did so every day. It's not in too bad of shape, considering. I swear to you that it came with a little card, a sort of pen-and-ink outline of the characters on the box with corresponding numbers that said who they were. I don't have it, and have never seen it mentioned or for sale since. It's possible I could be confusing it with the back of a cereal box or some other thing (there were lots and lots of "Yellow Submarine" promotional items that fall), but made sense for a card to be included because the film hadn't been released yet (it was in the UK that July). How else would I have known what a Blue Meanie was?

The only tragedy that befell my beloved lunchbox was the one day in the Cushing Elementary School cafeteria when I dropped the thermos and the interior insulating glass shattered. Horror!! But my mom packed it up and sent it back to the Thermos company, who replaced the glass and it stayed intact forevermore. Thank you, Mom. So much from my childhood wasn't saved, but this was.

I carried the Yellow Submarine box for all my elementary school years until middle school, when the "cool" way to bring in your lunch now was -- of course -- in a brown paper bag.