The Zero Mile Post marked the meeting of two railway lines and possibly the beginning of the city of Atlanta. Zero Mile is a series of sometimes fictionalized and sometimes real stories based on life in Atlanta, Georgia.
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
Parents get grumbly around back-to-school time when the supply list is not posted. By goodness, there’s only a week to scavenge for Little Johnny’s needed supplies. Hurry. Run. The anticipation. The agony.
I’ve had all sorts of experiences over the years. I hate school shopping. I love the preassembled box of school supplies that I can purchase without having to enter a retail store. It’s delivered by magic, by stork, by all things holy straight to my kid’s school. Why can’t every school system do this?
One year during a dramatic thunderstorm, we were in the checkout line at Target. The cashier had rung up almost $400 worth of school supplies when the power went out. We stood in darkness, learned the actual reboot time of Target registers (it is a long time), and had to rescan every item in our cart. The universe was trying to warn us of something. Resistance is futile.
This year, I’m trying to be calm and prepared. I’ve compiled all four of my kids’ school supply lists into one giant spreadsheet for fun. One hundred and ninety-eight line items later I have my shopping list.
If your child is old enough to have their own phone, they’re old enough to do their own shopping for the school supply list. You can sit in the Target Starbucks, and they can do the dirty work. Have them flag you over when it’s time to check out.
Little Janie is more than smart enough to figure out the list. After all, she knows what a “folder with brads” means. She’s closer to the ground and will be using this crap all year. I say crap affectionately, as well as f*ck and sh*t. I f*cking love summer. I f*cking love back to school, but not school supply shopping.
It’s Elementary, Dear Ms. Watson.
Expo Dry Erase Markers. Crayola Crayons, Crayola Colored Pencils, Crayola Standard Markers (not neon). Do not deviate from the brand. I regularly buy Kroger brand cereal, but this is not a drill. Buy Crayola. The other brands don’t work and aren’t up to the industrial strength exerted by a kindergartener.
You don’t need the crayon box with the sharpener. Crayons are sharpened once, at purchase, then worn down to a stubby nub by day two of school. Crayons can continue to be used in this fashion including stripped of label and broken in half. I promise you the color composition has not changed. The crayons called Apricot and Dandelion will continue satisfy the artistic endeavors of your kid as they draw a picture of you with an extra-large head and a torso shape like a lower case “i.” Trust Crayola. Don’t fool with the other on crayon brands.
Ticonderoga pencils (12 pack). Pre-sharpened. The other brands don’t sharpen. At. All. Unlike crayons, the #2 pencils get sharpened regularly. I know you don’t believe this, because you’ve only seen your child writing with a broken lead and trying to peel back the wood with her fingernails, but trust me, these things can be sharpened. Keep a sharpener at home. One day a week, go to school and sharpen the pencils in the elementary school. You don’t even have to ask. Just walk into any class room and start sharpening. The teacher will look at you, shed a single tear, and go back to teaching.
Wide-ruled composition notebooks. This one is a bit controversial. Buy it, but don’t be upset at the end of the year when these notebooks only have 3 pages used out of 100. This year, I’m determined to repurpose the old ones. Jane won’t even notice that her writing notebook has two pages of math at the front of it. Tell her she it’s time she reduced her carbon footprint.
Glue Sticks. The teachers ask for two packs. The truth is that they really need 200 packs, but there isn’t room to store 4,000 glue sticks in every classroom. Buy the other 198 packs and drop them off at school 5 sticks per week when you go to sharpen pencils. (This is a math puzzle, but it works out.) I’ve seen a kid use an entire glue stick to attach a single googly eye to a piece of construction paper.
Clorox wipes. Tissues. Hand-sanitizer. Paper towels. Guess who gets to clean up vomit, pee, and wet sneezes? Your child’s lucky teacher. Every teacher is a part-time member of the custodial staff.
Band-aids. I once asked a teacher if the kids got scrapped enough to warrant 30 boxes of band-aids in a school year. The honest reply was, “Yes.” But what I saw in her eyes was, “We give the band-aids so they shut up and go back to work.” Noted. Adhesive bandages. Check.
Big Kids Don’t Cry
Graph paper also known as grid paper. Copy paper. Notebook paper. Binders. Spiral Notebooks. Plastic three-pronged folders also known as folders with brads. What the hell are brads?! He was the kid who didn’t graduate from my high school. Index cards. Post-It notes. These kids will be writing. There will be paper and paper holders and binders to bind papers. Oh, the papers they will tote.
Earbuds for tablets and laptops, but not the fancy ones. The $2 ones from the airplane are fine. Get the cheapest ones you can find. The ones where only the left side works. These will be lost or stolen at some point. Keep them safe and close, but don’t cry for me Argentina when they disappear. Buy a stylus to poke at the technology without grubby finger prints and germs on everything. See Clorox wipes.
De-f*cking-odorant. Buy this for home. Buy this for the backpack. Tell them to use it. No matter how smart you think your kids are, they stink to high heaven.
While you are torturing them with bodily changes, buy some sanitary napkins. Even if you have a son. Kids who carry around maxi-pads will think about teen sex differently. Tell them that you are not afraid to talk about deodorant, menstrual cycles, hormones, sex, and condoms. Tell them the less school work they do, the more you will talk about sex. Suddenly those composition notebooks with be filled with algebraic equations.
Scientific Calculator. Scissors. Pencil Pouch. Metric Ruler. Protractors. Compass. Let these kids get their STEAM on.
Colored Sharpies. This is on our list! What the hell? Why don’t you just ask them to carry a switchblade? I know this is for older kids, but by God, Sharpies are permanent.
Magic Erasers for the walls. White Erasers for math. Eraser tops. Red erasers. You know what paper needs? Erasing. Giant holes made by obsessive kids who don’t want to waste a new sheet of paper. If your kid needs to erase more that the width of their pinky finger, get a new sheet of paper. I once watched a kid erase an entire 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. Which leads me to the optional items.
Optional That is Required.
Buy the stuff that you can. Sandwich bags, batteries, crickets for the classroom pet. Every kid and every family cannot do this. Do not complain. Some kids would love to go school shopping and get a new pack of pencils and cannot afford to do so. That’s right, kids your same neighborhood struggle financially. Even kids in middle class homes might not be able to afford to buy everything. If you can buy, do buy. Don’t put your name on anything except the earbud and stylus. Don’t make a big show it. Drop the supplies at Meet and Greet and run away.
At the Meet and Greet, greet your teacher with a beginning of the year gift. Gift cards to coffee shops will make your teacher smile. By teacher appreciation week, that same teacher will not appreciate your appreciation. By then, they hate your child and you. Do it now. During the honeymoon period. Do it often. Don’t wait for a special holiday to thank your teacher. Whisper in your teacher’s ear that you want to buy them whiskey, but cannot do so morally. Don’t wonder if your teacher drinks coffee. One, coffee shops have all manner of beverages and snack treats. Two, all teachers drink coffee.
I like gift cards to Target and Walmart, but a coffee gift card is a gift that can’t be spent on the class. Your teacher is a human no matter how many band-aids they dole out. Take a breath you are almost done.
The end of the supply list is like a hand reaching from the grave. In italics it reads, “Additional items may be requested by teacher at the Meet and Greet.” Add one more item to the list. For you. A flask. For coffee, of course.
Nicki Salcedo knows the loops and the back roads of Atlanta. She is a novelist, blogger and working mom. Zero Mile stories appear on the Atlanta Loop on Wednesdays.