Back-to-School Schlepping


It won’t be long before I miss these days.

Next week would be fine with me.

In typical family fashion, we waited until today to participate in the the oft-avoided subjugation of school supply shopping. I realize I’m a procrastinator. I married a procrastinator, and in turn, we have created three procrastinators. Our dogs are procrastinators, “Never run off with a shoe today, that can wait until tomorrow.”

I lied. We created two procrastinators.

Our youngest, likely because he is so tired of waiting for us to GSD (get shit done) is all about the future; he’s a visionary. He’s been asking to go school-supply shopping since April.

Well, maybe since August.

When I saw those damned school-bus and No. 2 HB pencil yellow signs, those harbingers of schedules, and standing in lines, and raising your hand first swing from the ceiling tiles of my nearest Target in late July, when I was just buying a new swimsuit coverup and a bottle of SPF-600 sunscreen I threw up in my mouth a little. “Back off! We live in Northern Virginia, you schmucks! Not Texas!” I hissed from the express lane check out lane.

We all lament that summer is too short. Lamenting is good for us. It keeps us in yesterdays.

Today, however, the youngest couldn’t wait to hit the streets and get his gear. He knew he had us by the short hairs. Tomorrow school “starts.” (I am so jaded about education these days… )

Because our oldest two are going to be a senior and freshman in high school, respectively, we are old hat at this. We’ve got reams of looseleaf lined paper; drawers filled with loose crayons; another drawer filled with colored pencils; about five pairs of 3″ scissors; several hundred index cards; thread-bound composition notebooks; graph paper; rulers; a dozen pocket folders, both plastic and paper; and at least 37 standard size glue sticks, not including the one my 2-year-old nephew was chewing on last week.

“Once you go through your list and cross off the things we already have, then we will head out. We aren’t going to keep getting stuff we already have; it’s like in there,” I said about our school supply shelf in the playroom as he walked around following me with his school supply list, pointing at it and telling me we needed four dildo large-sized glue sticks.

you tell me what we need here.  i can't make this shit up.

you tell me what we need here. if you recall, i said “cross off” what we already have.
i can’t make this shit up.

So we headed out… initially to Target and then, ultimately Staples (much to my husband’s delight because that makes him right and me wrong, but not really because I just wanted to go to Target to get more coffee, which was NOT on the list, but should be, so I won) and our 7″ scissors, three-subject spiral notebooks, 7-pocket expandable file, 24-count crayon packs, 12-count colored pencils and other things (which are apparently on another list our kid made). We have the checking pens at home. EVERYWHERE. It’s called a pen.

While there, we were among the masses, joining other gray-toned, unenthused, zombie-like adults glancing at the remains of a stationery section cum demilitarized zone. 

Choruses of “I know we already have that, let’s wait until you need it…” were groaned in louder, grainier and deeper response to “Ooh, these pink ball point sparkle pens made just for girls are cool…” sung from the spiral-eyed toe-stepper female-gender identified children.

I wasn’t sure what we needed, given that aforementioned requisition list and its NSA-encrypted WTF connotation system. So I started looking for three-subject spiral notebooks. I knew that was on the list. I cruised over to the school-supply annex nearest the burgeoning Hallowe’en candy which just COULDN’T wait its damned turn and overheard,

“Hey, Mom, let’s get this [Live! Laugh! Love! factory-antiqued woodenesque placard] for me for when I take over Stacy’s room when she moves out….”

“What? When? Stacy isn’t moving out. What are you talking about?” asked Mom who was hunched over and squinting. Trying to discern the value of gender-specific writing instruments. As I traipsed by I breezily threw said, “Last time I checked, Dorothy Parker, Tina Fey, Maureen Dowd and Condoleeza Rice didn’t need a pink pen… Just sayin’…”

The opportunistic daughter said, “You know, for when Stacy heads off to college, I’ll get her room…” She was holding the $30 distressed item next to her face.

Stacy was all of four feet tall. Stacy, as it turns out, was going into fifth grade. I asked the Mom.

There were no three-subject notebooks to be had.

Aside from the coffee, and also NOT on the list, I’d remembered that I wanted eraser pencil toppers. Target didn’t have them. So we bought what I came for, and pushed on to Staples a few miles away.

As we crossed the >swish< of the sliding doors into the store, my husband was in his upper-middle-to-senior management zone, “Step aside hon, I’ve got this… Head straight back and turn left at the middle intersection, go to the end, on the right…”

That, is how that man won my heart, 25 years ago.

I didn’t really care about the glue dildos or the small personal pencil sharpener. I knew those things would be covered the first few weeks of classes. 

I was concerned about the three-subject spiral notebooks. Due to their scarcity at Target, which was already preparing for St. Patrick’s Day, I knew they would be in high demand elsewhere.

We searched in the aisle of the standard spiral notebooks. It was worse than a toothpaste section. There were pink ones, blue ones, ones with tiger stripes, camouflage, leopard prints, Hello Kitty, Batman logos, paper covers or plastic covers. But no three-subject. Plenty of five-subject ones — he can be ambitious I thought; afterall, this “teaching to the test” bullshit is too limited, so I say run boy run (plus I don’t want to come back here again)!

My husband, betraying his manhood, asked for assistance. I was crushed. 

We were so close, just 10 more feet and a hard left at the end-cap. The masses were encroaching however. They must have heard his plea. 

Because we were too focused on getting our gear, we didn’t see other seekers, but we could feel them. We began to hunker down, get a better sight on our quarry and the collective pulse of the seekers’ energy grew. I did manage to look up, just as I saw a stack of the notebooks, and decided to grab three more, because: you never know, AND because the older two boys haven’t told us what they need yet…

But, the notebooks were college ruled.

Fuck it. Get two more! Run!!!

The nice thing about getting out of your house and waiting until the last minute to shop for things is that you bump into old friends. We did do that, but just as we were about to begin the whole, “How have you been? You look great!” conversations amid the lines of people undead in the store we somehow managed to escape (there were at least 15 bodies ahead of us), my husband was summoned to the cash register and I had the notebooks, a new backpack, a specifically blue protractor / compass / calculator combo (did you see those on the list?) and we had to push off.

The cashier attendant offered to put everything in the backpack, “Sure! Save a bag!” said our little guy, and she loaded it up. He was pleased to plop it on his 56″ 75# frame. He said as he squinted from the bright sun (another thing you experience when you get out and not shop online) about his backpack, “This’ll take me through 8th grade at least!”

When we got in the car, my husband said to him, “Hey, buddy, if you catch any static because your notebooks are college ruled, you just tell those teachers, it’s ok, you’ve got big plans…”

“Yeah, that you’re a visionary; that you’re already planning on college…”

After a nanosecond, our son said, “I’ll just tell them there weren’t any others.”

Big plans.

Happy Labor Day. LONG LIVE SUMMER!

Thank you.

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

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