Yesterday as I ran errands, everywhere I went there were signs of the upcoming back to school frenzy. From garish colored dorm coordinates (because everyone wants their bathroom trashcan to match their comforter) to backpacks idolizing the latest anime characters to the good old fashioned school supplies like glue sticks, markers, and crayons, the front of every store is ready and waiting for Tax Free weekend and the descending horde of shoppers. I eyed the few early birds with motherly disgust, as I never managed to have school supplies bought until sometime around the second week of school. Pros? Amateurs! Real moms know better than to buy folders without their screaming child grabbing their leg, demanding the cute kittens with pockets and no brads, in spite of teachers requiring plain colored red, blue, green, with pockets and brads. Real moms also know that lunch boxes are not cool, nor are reuseable sandwich holders and refillable juice containers. Only environmentally unfriendly plastic bags, non-decomposing juice boxes, and zippered sandwich bags will do. Don’t even think about getting your junior schooler the printed paper lunch bags, or worse, plain brown bags decorated with love notes from mom, unless you want to be cleaning up bloody noses and reattaching torn buttons after bouts of “baby” bullying.
I have to admit, more than anything else, I felt jealous. My kids are so far past those days, and both have already experienced the outfitting of a first apartment (for Matt) and dorm room (for Aubrey). Aubrey honestly has everything she needs for her first apartment, other than a microwave…and an apartment. Office and craft supplies are overly abundant in our house, although Aub’s not taking any classes at the moment, and Matt doesn’t use such things. All he requires is a laptop and a flash drive, both of which he already has. Aubrey is rarely home as she picks up every extra shift she can squeeze out of both jobs, pulling doubles at her day job when it’s her night off at the other one. Working six days a week, she doesn’t have time to write a postcard, let alone a research paper.
As I longingly felt up the Trapper binders and sniffed the scented markers, I pined for the days when they were small and August meant all new clothes, unsharpened pencils, and wide-ruled loose-leaf notebook paper. I flipped through paper class schedulers (as if any kid would ever use an organizer app on their phone, let alone one made from trees), rustled the tacky neon bedding, and zipped pencil bags back and forth. Just as I sighed and blinked back a tiny tear from my mind’s eye, a commercial played over the intercom for the Stuff the Bus campaign. What? I could buy school supplies for kids who need them? Score!!
While the economy is recovering (for the upper middle class), money is always exceedingly tight in lower income brackets. It’s tough to buy supplies for one kid, let alone more than one, and many parents need all the help they can get. The Stuff the Bus project is becoming a nationwide campaign, although some communities have similar programs under different names. No matter what it’s called, providing kids with necessary supplies takes a huge financial burden off parents that can’t afford the crazy amount of stuff that teachers require. In many ways, it’s as important to and for kids as programs that give gifts at Christmas. All those fresh supplies in a clean backpack can feel just like Christmas morning. Even though I’m 44 and have more crayons than I know what to do with, I still get an excited little rush when I get my hands on a box that has that brand new waxy smell.
So if navigating through the aisles of your local grocery or big box store makes you wax nostalgic about your kids’ back to school days, give in to that urge to buy a few folders, a notebook, a backpack, and a box or two of crayons. No matter how small your town, there is someone who will surely appreciate your generosity.