The supply list

How can it be that before I’ve managed to spin around three times, the summer’s shot and school’s about to start? When I was in school, s…

How can it be that before I’ve managed to spin around three times, the summer’s shot and school’s about to start? When I was in school, summers dragged and slogged until autumn; these days, I’m still holding my spring-cleaning feather duster when the school rolls back around.

My daughter just graduated from high school, so we’re looking at a whole other set of stresses with her, but my 16-year-old son is starting his junior year. I’m so grateful he’s old enough to be school supply savvy because as soon as my kids passed sixth grade I instantly became clueless about the entire process.

Unless I’m viewing my childhood through chalk-dusted glasses, the most complicated thing on my supply list was the pencil box; the kind with the cover you slid back to reveal your pencils, sharpener and erasers. I found this contraption endlessly fascinating because the lid seemed to disappear, when it was in actuality rolling backward and down to the underside of the box. Pencil boxes were my favorite school supply — they were the only supply that would be equally at-home in a magician’s bag of tricks.

But I hated those years when my children still needed me to decipher their lists, like Indiana Jones trying to make sense of the parchment scroll that would lead him to priceless ancient artifacts. The only reward was that during those years — when it went well — I felt reasonably cool as one of the moms who “got it”, that elite crew who tossed supplies into the cart hand over fist and barely giving the list a second glance. Those mothers chaperoned field trips even if the bus was full, and they drove to the planetarium in their own cars with five 11-year-olds in the back. Not me. If I couldn’t be driven, I probably couldn’t chaperone either.

About 10 years ago, I stood in the middle of the Back to School section of my local department store, staring at the children’s lists, then at the shelves and then back at the lists. Along the lines of map reading, troubleshooting my cable or sorting out recipes with more than four ingredients, I just lack the patience.

However, these days life is much more manageable; I just drive to the store with my son and let him pick out what he needs. And it takes him all of seven minutes: the same amount of time it used to take me to find the right three-ring binder hole punch.


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