Sunday, August 23, 2015

Do they feel our pain?

Do I need a pencil sharpener,asked the boy as he skipped alongside the shopping cart, thumping his feet in time with the clank of a rickety wheel.

Nope,I answered with confidence. His third grade school supplies list was refreshingly brief:

Twenty-four pencils, two erasers, a large box of crayons, two glue sticks, two dry erase markers, one spiral note book, three composition books, a cube of sticky notes and a few yellow highlighters.

But do I neeeeeed one?he asked again, prompting me to read the paper in my hand more carefully.

It was a crumpled, messy thing. All summer long I had taken it out of his hot little hands, refolded it and pegged it back onto the refrigerator above his natural reach but not above his much taller, chair-dragged-out-from-the-dining-room height.

It's not time yet,I said gruffly, knowing that other families may be able to save on school supplies by buying early but not us. All those shiny new things would be soggy and used before September if they lived in our house too long.

Are you sure I don't need a pencil sharpener,he interrupted my flashback with new urgency.

The only other items on the list two boxes of facial tissue and a box of gallon-sized resealable plastic bags we would find at the grocery store.

I turned the page over.

It was blank.

No. Pencil sharpener is definitely NOT on the list.”

His face told me that somehow I had not understood his question, I had missed the subtleties of tone with respect to his back-to-school shopping voice, which was only slightly different from his hen is it Summer Vacationvoice and his re We There Yetvoice.

But, even he understood that his mom's School Shopping voice seemed a little too relaxed to be catching his meaning. He had to be more blunt:

Can I have a pencil sharpener anyway?”

I didn't even speak I just nodded toward the cart. It was a supply-side demand that seemed a breeze compared to what I faced with his middle-school-entering sister, who stalked along behind us, staring at her list and muttering to herself as we crisscrossed the store.

She smiled faintly and her eyes glazed over as she unfurled the two-sided, tiny-print scroll that one might presume from its size listed every item available in inventory at the office supply warehouse.

This may take a while,she said with an air of adolescent importance. There are so many things I need.

By the time we finished, the wonky-wheeled cart was having trouble navigating turns it was so overfilled with notebooks and binders, reams of loose-leaf paper, page dividers, index cards, pencils and pens, pocket folders and zippered pencil cases, markers and rulers, and tools I had to look up online.

Is a 'four-function' calculator a standard device,I asked the cardboard display of scientific instruments, presumably visiting from Texas.

It never answered, it just mocked me with too many buttons and symbols I didn't understand.

Mom, you're losing it,sang my daughter as she dropped an inexpensive calculator in the carriage. It was a pretty pink-colored plastic cherry on top of the haul.

By the time we got to the check-out line I was worried my credit card might just collapse under the weight of this pending debt. But I was more worried the forrest that gave its life for this school year would haunt my dreams.

And I just hope all the pencils my boy sharpens unnecessarily don't feel any pain.

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