Since giving in and resolving to wrap my head around obtaining the mountain of sundry school supplies that, these days, amounts to way more than pencils, scissors and a bottle of glue, I've made multiple trips to multiple stores to find multiple, highly scarce necessities, all priced to break my bank. Binders alone run, at minimum, $5 a pop, and each one of my four children has gotta have at least a hundred.
Merry Christmas, kids.
This week, standing in the store aisle, again, lined with miles of folders, notebooks, loose-leaf paper, clips, and clasps, saying, "No," to anything with cute puppies, WWF wrestlers and fast cars on the cover, I suddenly thought of the Trapper Keeper I always coveted as a pupil.
Awash with memories of a childhood long passed, I pictured my devastatingly practical mother answering all my pleas for a Trapper Keeper, which was synonymous with cool-kid-in-school, with "Your teacher doesn't have that on your supply list." Of course my teacher didn't. She strategized to preemptively cause her students mental anguish, laying the groundwork for crowd control even before the first day.
Oh, heartbreak, to be relegated to the side of the classroom with kids who carried spiral-bound notebooks with plain grey cardboard covers in their satchels and whose mothers sent peanut butter balls rolled in wheat germ for their recess snack. The horror of sitting next to the kid who could turn his eyelids inside out and pass green Jell-O through his nose still torments me today.
Pamela Anderson in her red Baywatch bathing suit waved in front of my face, snapping me out of my reverie. "Can I have this folder, Mama? Pleeease?" requested one of my sons. I didn't even know Pamela Anderson was still in. But I guess for a middle school boy, any pretty woman in a bathing suit is in.
I considered how I longed for the Trapper Keeper I never had. My mind traveled to a more innocent time when I stood twixt those glorious shelves lined with protractors and pencil boxes watching all those other kids' mothers put Trapper Keepers in their shopping carts. I looked at my son, desperation in his eyes, and said, "No. Your teacher didn't put Pamela Anderson on your supply list."
I have to trust the practical wisdom of my mother. I am who I am today because I never had a Trapper Keeper.
Hearing of my harsh ways, my Mississippi brother busted in. "Your younger siblings did receive Trapper Keepers. It was a mark that we were more favored," he bragged. Then he added, "Or that Trapper Keepers had gone out of style and become the cheap alternative, because I seem to remember eating those wheat germ peanut butter balls as well."
Ah, yes. In light of that revelation, I held fast to the practical ways handed down from my mama. Certainly the conflict my Mississippi brother felt over not knowing exactly where he fit in, with the Trapper Keeper kids or next to the student with green Jell-O running down his upper lip, made him exactly who he is today.
I firmly believe, rightly or wrongly, and in the face of great opposition from my offspring, that the practical application of deprivation, whether from Trapper Keepers, Pamela Anderson, or summer itself, makes a powerful impact on the destinies of children.
And I'm willing to make as many trips to the school supply aisle as it takes to mold my budding citizens. But I would appreciate not having to go broke to do it.
Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny . She lives in Thomson. Lucy invites readers to e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org and to visit her Web site, www.ifmama.com.