Saturday, October 2, 2010

Please Send In

So there we were, in the middle of the full craze of the Friday night Homecoming football game, in the stands cheering for the team,, the student section pulsing with excitement, the band blasting out their peppiest of pep songs, lights and people and noises all around, and my darling son Jeffrey turns to me and says:

"I need to bring a pineapple to school on Monday. Don't forget."

OK, with all the distraction and no place to write anything down, there was a pretty high likelihood of me forgetting. It was better than him telling me at 6:30 on Monday morning though.

You'll be glad to know that we did get out and purchase the pineapple, and I also found a moment to ask Jeffrey why he would even need to bring a pineapple to school in seventh grade. He didn't seem to know, exactly.

"It's for Spanish class, we're doing a thing with food."

"So, like, everyone was assigned a different item, and you got pineapple?"


"So, the teacher just looked across the room and said: 'You--in the blue sweatshirt! Pineapple! Monday!'?"

"No, not like that, it's for a skit...there's another kid who has to bring in a MANGO."

I'm still not entirely clear on what the pineapple is for. But I know he is planning to draw a face on it with a sharpie.

This incident reminded me of a conversation between the moms in my neighborhood about the outrageous requests from teachers for things to send in to school. It seems to start out strongest in elementary school, when you never seem to know when you are going to get hit with a sudden need for exact amounts of cash to cover field trips, pizza parties, group gifts, or whatever. Contributing the money isn't the problem, but sometimes coming up with the right combination of small bills equaling 4 or 8 dollars to put "in an envelope with his name on it" could be a challenge at 9:00 at night or before school in the morning. There were times when we were out of cash or only had large bills on hand, and we had to resort to IOUs in the piggy bank, shaking out birthday cards or digging through jacket pockets to find the exact tender.

But worse than money are the requests for specific objects, often delivered home in a backpack in the form of a checklist, or sometimes a slip of paper reminiscent of the old birthday party scavenger hunts. I've had to send in single ingredients of recipes, photographs, supplies, even objects of a specified shape. (Ok; what do you have in your house that's shaped like a trapezoid. Think fast!) Kendrea told me of a time when she had to drive to four different craft stores in search of a quantity of chenille stems (aka pipe cleaners) in a very specific and obscure color.

Worst of all were the outfits that needed to be pulled together for the themed music class concerts, usually at the last minute because the music teacher is outside of the usual parent-teacher communication loop. Last year the second grade moms were going out of their minds trying to find dinosaur costumes two weeks before Christmas. I remember one time being stumped when Jeffrey announced that he had to dress up like a blow fish. Even further back Tim's class was doing the Pied Piper. I recall that time the note included a helpful hint of "think of Lord of the Rings type styles." Sure, but they had a 285 million dollar budget and eight years to put those movies together, and I had one night and the contents of our closets. I think he looked okay in a pair of rolled-up sweatpants and one of my old maternity tops with a belt. A step above the time my friend Sharon gave up on a swashbuckler theme and sent her son in with a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap.

Even my ultra-creative neighbor Kim, who once made her son an amazing costume of the Solar System for Halloween, was stumped by the direction to turn him into a "crabby cabbage." She actually managed to figure something out with felt or paper leaves or whatever, but then how do you go about making it different from lettuce?

You would think that these types of requests would die down when the kids moved out of elementary school, but no. Last Spring I found myself rushing out to buy FOUR HUNDRED paper plates to send with Tim to the regional track meet. I still don't know what for.

And on the evening of March 13 Jeffrey declared that he was supposed to bring in a pie to math class. Since it was late baking a pie was out of the question so off I went to the grocery store to spend $7.95 on a stale-looking blueberry tart. It was a cute idea, tying in the idea of pies to pi and 3.14, but I questioned the teacher's own math skills for failing to calculate that there were 5 math classes times 25 kids with pies cut into 8 servings each...equals even more food than even the teacher's lounge could accommodate. Since Jeff had math last hour they were already maxed out so we had stale blueberry tart at home for dinner that night.

This probably isn't a new concern. At least these days we have 24 hour big box convenience stores. I still recall a tense family moment from my childhood when my procrastinating sister announced she needed poster board to complete a school project long after all the stores had closed. You had to stock up on that stuff. Or else!

I'm sure that my stories aren't unusual. What have you had to do at the last minute to fulfill a request to "please send in?"


Anonymous said...

This one was especially hilarious. Be sure to include it in your Book of Blogs when you compile a bunch to send around to publishers. If you start collecting stories on this topic, like you quoted about the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap, there might be enough for an entire book!! I'll e-mail you with a couple of my own experiences from the olden days.

Anonymous said...

Well, BITD, I forgot to tell my mom that I had signed up for 2 dozen deviled eggs. When I got to school, I was reminded that this was the day that the eggs were to be brought in. I called my mom from the school office, and somehow she managed to buy the eggs, make them and get them to school in time. Moms, you gotta love em.


Anonymous said...

Not too long ago, I came home from work to find Cale chopping at a frozen lump of ground round in a frying pan. "What are you doing" I ask. "I have to bring in a dish the represents my nationality tomorrow." he answers. "What are you making?" I inquire. "Tacos" he says. "But we aren't Mexican" I offer. "But we have make your own taco nights" he replies.

Anonymous said...

Due to a lack of all other necessary ingreients to make 30Tacos because there isn't a drop of Mexican blood in our family, Mark can to the rescue with Sweedish pancakes.
Mary Beth

Anonymous said...

You are a great writer and so funny too.

Laura said...

I wrote a column about this very topic, but left out probably my worst, and one of my last, "please send" request from the Oxford School District. At Christmas one year I was asked to bring in candy canes, one that were "at least five to six inches long" So, with that in mind, I duly brought in ones I thought were of the required size.

I brought them into the Christmas party to have one of the classroom moms stare at them for a full, cold minute and then say. "you brought the wrong kind. You were SUPPOSED to bring straight ones, without a hook. We're putting them in oranges."

No one had told me a bit of that. But as each time she broke the crook off a cane to make them straight, she gave me what I thought was a little glare. A little bit of parental failure, there, in my inability to bring in the "correct" candy canes. For shame.

Rebecca Binno Savage said...

I have no memory of announcing that I needed POSTER BOARD on a school night. For a project due the next day. But it is likely it could have happened...