1) Two boxes of books. Into the Firestone where my car was being serviced. You know, because that was how long it usually took to get my oil change — long enough to get through a stack.
No, really it was because I was multi-tasking. My car had been due for an oil change, when the principal asked at the last minute if I would chaperone the 8th grade field trip two days later. Which meant driving. On I-95. To Delaware.
So I dropped the car off at Firestone at 8 a.m. on a Thursday and then walked to a meeting around the corner with two volunteers from the Christ Child Society. Their group does a lot for our school, like donating books.
Two boxes worth of Goosebumps and cookbooks and a nice primer on bar mitzvahs, actually.
Boy, did the other customers at Firestone look at me weirdly when I walked in. Maybe I should have offered to loan them that novel called “Staying Pure.” Or the manual on frogs.
2) One quarter, three dimes, and a nickel. Thirty minutes later I pulled up in front of a large city public school near Johns Hopkins and discovered that because of the school’s proximity to the world’s greatest hospital, I now had to pay for on street parking.
Of course, I did.
Assorted change and a few pieces of lint later, I was inside the school looking for a student who apparently never came to school but whose counselor had assured me that she was doing great. Except for the fact that she had been absent for more than a third of the school year.
Too bad they hadn’t owned up to this a few months ago. When a meeting with her could have made a difference …
3) One paper bag of groceries. To be more specific: Turkey sandwiches on whole wheat, a container of fruit, and freshly made cookies. I had a lunch meeting with a student and after a year of eating BK salads while I gave pep talks to high schoolers, I wanted the good stuff.
I hefted that bag into the cafeteria and found out the student had already eaten lunch.
Oops. Second awkward carrying moment of the day. I felt like such a lug.
Had I gotten the time wrong? Or was she eating during a different lunch period? We chatted for 10 minutes and then rescheduled a longer visit. At least she was in school that day. I counted that as a victory.
4) Jurisprudence. One of our vocabulary words and a favorite on SAT practice tests.
How did it come up? Back at the middle school, I still had a class to teach. The girls had been complaining that I was teaching up until the very bitter end of the year. So, we reviewed for the next day’s test and then, just to mix it up, I let them go to the computer lab and play word games.
“She isn’t teaching us,” one of them whispered in complaint.
Yeah, you heard that right. The day before they complained that I was teaching. Then on this day, the complained that I wasn’t.
For the record: Twelve years olds. Are. Always. Like. This.
Wisely, for once, I fought the urge to explain myself to them. I picked up a stack of papers and started grading.
5) A needle and thread. I arrived home that evening with a half hour to spare before a soccer club parent meeting and to find my daughter fretting over a dress she wanted to wear to the 8th grade dance the next night. It was ripped.
Actually it had been ripped for a while. Three weeks before, I had asked her if she wanted me to take the dress to the cleaners for the repair. Because I wasn’t doing it. I hate to sew.
No, no, my crafty daughter assured me. She wanted to sew it herself. Now the night before the dance and with two exams the next day, my little seamstress admitted that she didn’t know how to fix the dress. I sent her across the street to a sewing neighbor.
When I came home from the meeting and found her frantically trying to untangle a frazzled thread, I took over the project.
It was stereo middle school around here.
A box of granola bars, a bag of Pirate’s Booty, and one Seventeen magazine. Plus four 8th graders. It was now Friday a.m. and I was driving four super-charged thirteen-year-olds to a spa in Newark, Del. that catered to kids. The 8th grade had raised money for this one final and fun field trip, and there we were – a morning at the spa, followed by lunch and shopping at the Christiana Mall.
Vanessa, their homeroom teacher, and my partner in crime for retreats and summer camps and crazy field trips, was driving our bus with ten of the girls. The other four crowded into my car and cranked up the R&B.
In just a few months’ time, I will visit them at their new high schools, their uniforms will be perfect, their notebooks fresh and crisp, their faces full of freshmen stress.
But in my car on that morning, they were giddy and silly — definitely off key.
Two more 8th graders. I made it home from the field trip just in time to take my daughter and a friend to a pre-dance party my niece was hosting.
And one battered camp chair. Then I headed to the Little League diamond to watch my son’s game. For the first time in two days, my hands were free for clapping, and it was a nice night for baseball.