(barely) Surviving School Supplies

lists school suppliesI just made a check out to my son's school. Normally, I consider check-writing up there with hot coffee enemas on my list of "things I loathe," but this time, I considered writing, "MARRY ME" in the subject line after I doodled pink hearts all over the rest of the check. I'd have sealed it with a kiss, if it hadn't seemed a little stalkery (even for me).

What the nuts had gotten me so hot and bothered? School supplies.

Every year when I can write out a single check for school supplies, I swoon.

Things weren't always so simple.

When my son was diagnosed on the autistic spectrum at age 2, it was heavily suggested that I enroll him in preschool for "socialization" (which I assumed meant "butt-sniffing"). Instead of the Special Ed preschool, which was eleventy-million miles away, I opted for a Montessori-type school closer to home.

My son "socialized" his way through first grade there.


Being a much-younger mother, I'd been shunned by most of the other parents, and having an autistic son of my own meant that he had a unique way of making me feel badly about my parenting skills.

I'd initially looked at the kindergarten school supplies sheet as a challenge: something I could WIN! I could show the WORLD that I was a GOOD MOTHER, TOO, dammit!

I dragged my very colicky new baby to the store, armed with The List.

First item: “Red, two-pocket, three-ring, vinyl folder.”

Hrm. I found part of the item, “red two-pocket, vinyl folder,” but it was missing the mandatory three rings. Maybe red, two-pocket, three-ring, vinyl folders had their own secret aisle or something, I thought, as I moved on.

Next item: “Three-subject, vinyl cover, purple notebook, NOT COLLEGE RULED!

Well, okay, nice and definitive. Except that all of the purple notebooks were missing a vital adjective. The three-subject notebooks didn't come in purple, or if they did, it was a college-ruled notebook.

Next, next item: “Black and white composition book. MEAD BRAND ONLY!!!!”

BING-motherfucking-O! I knew what that was AND where it was! Just as I smugly grabbed a couple, I saw that what I'd mistaken for brand-name was actually, in fact, the store brand.

Which had been marked as clearly unacceptable.

I was failing School Supplies. And probably, life.

With the help of six other people, of all twenty-seven items, I was able to find exactly three. This, after traveling to seven different stores and scouring the Internet -- I was willing to pay shipping fees (something I objected to on principle) -- and still, nothing.

Okay, it was clear this was a Trick List. Nobody could have found these items.

I stuck the closest equivalents in his backpack and sent him off for his first day of school. He came home with a tersely written note for me regarding the ABSENCE of proper school supplies. It scolded me for being unable to properly secure the right supplies. First, I was embarrassed, like I'd been called to the Principle's Office for passing notes in class. Slowly, I became furious: how dare she ask for such specific supplies without informing us where they were sold?

For other reasons, we pulled him out of there the following year and enrolled him in public school. He's never been happier. And every year, when the PTO sells packaged school supplies, I sign the check with an extra flourish, dotting my "i's" with hearts.

I draw the line at standing in front of the school with a boom-box, playing, "In Your Eyes."


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