Family Our Voices

Back to School

By: Danielle Sarah Storch

In just a few days it will be the dreaded back to school shopping sale season.  I like to ignore all of those back to school discount sale signs in store windows and any reminders that my peaceful summer with the family is coming to an end.  For one thing, every year the same scenario usually repeats itself.

I am relaxing on my favorite lounge chair in the backyard basking in the yellow warmth around me.  The kids are blowing bubbles and popping them, running and laughing. The steaks are grilling on the outside grill, and we are all chit chatting away.  Then IT arrives–the perfect summer interruption. That puffy manila envelope with the school’s insignia on the front left corner.

One of the children generally grabs the mail in search of their report card, and finding the envelope addressed “To parents of…” they open it to reveal the contents.  (Once it’s discovered, this letter contains a school list and not a report card, it is handed over to me via plopping it down on my lap while I’m lounging around—UGH! ) Summer spoiler, I think to myself.  By that time, I try and hide the letter in my bag of snacks resting under the chair or on the lawn.  But my curiosity is piqued, and I must look at the contents of this very important letter. I pull out the letter knowing full well, here’s another to do list for Mommy, just waiting to happen.   

“It’s not my report card yet,” she screams.

“I know.” I yell back as I eyeball the list of at least fifty-something details neatly typed describing every size index card and dimension of binders, and that exact number and kind of pencil that is needed for a perfectly successful year at school.  What if I buy the half-inch binder instead of the one- inch binder?  Will I score a C+ on back to school shopping? I chuckle to myself.

Random thoughts begin popping into my mind as I read further and further down the list.  Why does our Shloimy need to bring in 10 boxes of tissues, if all twenty-four of his classmates are required to do the same thing?  Not only do I have to interrupt my vacation, but I have to engage in mental multiplication to try and make sense of the back to school shopping list.  Let’s see 10 boxes x 80 tissues per box= 800 tissues x 24 boys. That’s 19,200 tissues total. I scratch my head imagining 1,000 tissues used on 24 runny noses, and the rest made into tissue paper airplanes, projectiles, fidget toys, and other wasted entities.  And the other 18,200 tissues returned home on the last day of school.

I continue reading as I feel sweat beads forming above my eyebrows:  exactly one red folder, two green, and three yellow. Must be plastic, NOT paper.  But why?  And what if this year they are running short on red plastic folders?  Then what?

I read on and the questions keep flowing:  

52 number two pencils, sharpened.   (52×24=1,248 pencils). WHAT?  Can’t the boys learn to borrow from each other? What happened to the Ahavas Yisrael curriculum?

One pencil sharpener (maybe they should list two or three, after all we need to sharpen 52 pencils).

One hundred index cards 3”x5”—UGH.

Four packs of loose leaf paper—Again?

One eraser (finally a break, maybe they don’t expect a lot of mistakes?)

Three binders:  one two- inch, one half an inch, and one three point five inches.  (Do they make them that specific?)

Halfway through list, my mind blasts a protest—this is ridiculous!  I bet Christopher Columbus didn’t pack this much stuff on his voyage.  My hands tremble, as I lift up the list and toss it back into my bag.

I stand up and head into the house to grope for something sweet to eat from the fridge.  I need to calm my nerves and get prepared for the back to school extravaganza shopping. Then I realize a second letter has arrived for our son’s school.  I see it in the pile of mail on the dining room table– Similar insignia and manila looking envelope. OH NO!

And that’s when my phone rings.  It’s my friend Devorah.

“I’m off for the next few weeks, and I’m looking to do a few extra small jobs.”

I think.

“Do you need me to do any shopping for you?” She says.

A big smile makes its way across my face.  “You mean you LIKE back-to-school shopping?”

“Sure,” she laughs.  I’ll get everything for your kids 1-2-3.”

I take my friend up on her offer.  For the extra little bit, it’s worth the big headache for me.  

But then I think, maybe I’m really a back-to-school shopping failure.  I mean on a test, I would’ve had an incomplete or maybe this is cheating.  But then I realize that I could use a break; it’s what I need this year for my sanity.  I really do hate shopping, and I’ve been fighting the list item by item. I want to help my friend, and she enjoys this.

Later that week my friend drives the kids in her eight-seater to the local office supply store.  And I jump for joy when all 50 something items on the list are crossed off and we are ready for school on time this year, without too much credit card damage.

POSTSCRIPT: And it’s a miracle when the following year our son’s school sends a PTA notice which invites parents to purchase a box of every back to school items on the list, all

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