What mom hasn’t been there? What self respecting thirty something woman of the era hasn’t found herself on her knees in the back to school aisle pleading… “just tell me this darling… have you found a scissors that suits you?”
Before today, I thought I was alone in my back to school agony, but as the dental assistant (my trip to the dentist by the way, ended up being the HIGHlight of my day) asked about my plans for the rest of the day she assured me, laughing as she suctioned, that I in fact am in good company in my back to school angst. She began to unravel a few memories for me of one of her young children whining over the lack of glossy pink folders which would certainly have secured her place with the “in” group, while her son, completely bored with the task of choosing rulers and erasers began tossing a football into a perfect pyramid of elmers edible glue. But our laughter had subsided by the time I climbed into my SUV and made my way sorrowfully to the bank, wondering woefully if I would be required to take out a loan by the time I’d descended the mountain of back packs and made my way through the river of scientific calculators. I withdrew the amount I was hoping would cover the damages and walked sheepishly away from the teller with my tail between my legs. As I opened the door to depart I heard her stifle a laugh as she whispered to the woman next to her “Back to school shopping… poor sucker!” How did she know? I wondered as I gave myself a second look in the rearview mirror, did the terror show?”
I decided to approach my enemy slowly. But I’m afraid the sound may have tipped my foe off. Wouldn’t you know I got the squeaky cart? The bane of mothers of school aged children everywhere. You know the cart. It’s the one that mocks you slowly… at first you barely notice it’s there, but later, when you’ve offered up the last of your patience to the back to school gods it makes that one last annoying squeak and starts to bounce around as you hustle, almost free toward the checkout line and poufff… you finally lose all resolve and become a whimpering mass of whom you once were. I would not succumb to this fate today though. Not me. I am an experienced mother. I have been to this battlefield before. I know all the tricks. I simply lifted the offending side of the cart with my left hand and strode on. Yes, my arm began to cramp almost immediately but I would not be deterred. We stalked by the aisle slowly. My youngest son (the rookie) asked in confusion “Mom, aren’t we going to go down that aisle? That’s where all the back to school stuff is!” My daughters gasp could be heard from the farthest corners of the store. “What?” he asked with fear in his eyes. “What’d I say?”
“She’s just checking things out. SHE’S NOT READY!” One of the girls whispered loudly in his ear.
“No,” I said, eyebrow cocked in steel willed determination. “ He’s right. It’s time. Let’s go in”.
Flanked by my offspring I dove in, hand first for the dreaded list. It emerged from my purse like a beam of light. You could almost hear the foreboding music in the back ground, challenging me… mocking me. My children shielded their eyes but I would not be so easily intimidated. I armed myself quickly with my pen, double clicking for effect, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed the rookie making a movement toward a stack of pencil boxes. “If you value that arm partner,” I ordered with all the authority I could muster.” You will put that hand back in your pocket and leave it there until further notice.”
I think he was beginning to get the point.
Felicity, I beckoned to me, “You understand how important it is that each item goes into the cart in it’s proper order correct. Because if things go in out of order we won’t be able to double check that we’ve crossed off everything on the list. And you know the cardinal sin of back to school shopping do you not?”
“Yes mom,” She answered, fear swimming in her eyes “Under no circumstances should you ever have to return to the back to school aisle once you have left the back to school aisle.”
I didn’t realize I’d been holding my breath until she finished. I exhaled with proud satisfaction. Oh she was going to make a great little back to school mother one day.
I had given Kama free reign over her list. After all, the girl is sixteen, it was time to let her spread her wings. But what I had to do to keep her from her mistakes I’m not proud of. She came around the corner at what seemed to be warp speed this beautiful albeit not very price conscious daughter of mine. I barely had time to intercept the 5 subject notebook as she tossed it haphazardly into the cart. I leapt with catlike reflexes across the classic, washable marker stand and deftly caught the offending pad up in my grasp. “Kama,” I queried in a rather high pitched voice “ Did you check the price on this notebook?” I could tell by the funky and colorful cover that this notebook would be found to be almost twice, if not three times as much as the cardboard, plain colored type. “You have no idea how lucky you are that I was able to catch this back to school blunder.” I anchored my hand on her shoulder as I searched her eyes for some sign of recognition.
“Whatever.” she uttered as she took the book from my hand and sluffed slowly back to the notebooks.”
I turned and saw Felicity shaking her head in understanding.
“We’re not going to win them all.” I worked to reassure her. “What matters is that we protect the contents of this cart.” Her eyes flashed with understanding. It felt good to have a partner in this war.
I’m not going to say that the rest of our time midst the crayons and protractors was without incident. We nearly came to blows over the assignment pads at one point and there was a small incident involving loose leaf paper but I don’t feel that it’s bragging to tell you that by the time I reached the checkout line I’m pretty sure my blood pressure had already returned to normal.
I don’t feel I’m ready to talk about the breakdown I had at the cash register just yet. Perhaps with time.
But alas, we have returned home. The back to school items are piled neatly on the living room floor awaiting their appointment with a intial wielding sharpy, and I have uncorked my favorite bottle of wine.
There is a rumor floating around that a green folder has gone missing. But I know my children are just toying with me.