June 23, 2024
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June 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

It’s that time of the year again—time to think about school supplies. And I know what you’re wondering. You’re wondering, “Mordechai, it’s June!” But watch; your kids are about to start coming home with school supplies. Well, parts of them. And not necessarily the ones you sent.

It hardly seems fair. You went hunting at several stores looking for exactly what the teachers asked for. Your kids are bringing you whatever’s left. No one asked for this. You didn’t send a list to the teacher that said, “A half of a set of markers, a sefer that’s seen better days, a pencil I don’t recognize as ever coming from my house…” It’s one thing if they were items you can save for this coming September, but usually, they are not.

Things they come home with:—Three pencils with broken points and no erasers.—One giant dirty eraser block with pencil-point holes in it.—Broken crayons that are either black or blue or indigo or dark purple or brown.—A sefer that you’re no longer halachically allowed to open on Shabbat.—A bottle of glue that is glued shut.—One half-full glue stick. (“Look, it’s half full!” “I sent you with 12.”)—Most of a ruler.—That bag of spare clothes you had to send with your kindergartener that he outgrew so long ago that it missed going into the appropriate “too small” box in the attic.—A binder whose rings don’t quite line up anymore.—A folder with a cookie in the pockets. No bag, just a cookie.—Two markers that still work, from a set of 12. (I have a drawer at home with 26 grey markers in it.)—A book sock that smells like an actual sock. What did he do to get it to this point? I can’t imagine this protected the book.

Basically, all the nice, shiny stuff you worked so hard to get for your kids at the beginning of the year comes home in June in pieces that look like no matter what happened over the 10 months of school, they kept all their supplies outdoors. And these pieces are useless for next year or the next kid, yet you have to find a place to store it all for the summer so you can decide this together in September.

And why does everything in the pencil box smell that way? You open the box and you get hit in the face with this supplies cholent that’s been festering all year.

“SUPPLIES!”

I was bringing my third grader to school on the last Monday of school a couple of years ago, and he’s about to get out of the car, and he says, “Should I take my bath mat out of my knapsack?” And I said, “Goodbye. Wait, what? Why do you have a bath mat? No, never mind. Go to school!”

“Should I tell you what it was for?”

“No! Get out of the car! You’ve been home all weekend with a bath mat in your knapsack and you’re waking up now?”

And then I drove away, and I was wondering, “Why does he have a bath mat?” And then I vaguely remembered that back in September, his teacher had said at orientation that everyone in the class needed to bring in a carpet for reading time. Because they sit down on the floor to read, like no adult does ever. And he gave us some dimensions—about 2 feet by 3 feet—so kids wouldn’t show up with, say, a living room rug. And we were like, “Who has a carpet of those dimensions just lying around, just in case? Do we have to go to a carpet store for this?”

So we bought him a bath mat that matches absolutely nothing in our house. We didn’t even get the matching toilet mat. Even though that’s the kind of mat that I read on. And now he’s bringing it home, apparently, which is something we never considered he’d do, so now we have to store a random bath mat. And it’s not like he needs it for school any other year!

I’m not sure what to do about the seforim either. Every year, your kid comes home with a Chumash, and you’re like, “This goes right in sheimos. It’s disrespectful to even keep it around. Where’s the cover?” The Chumash has been whittled down to the two middle parshios. And the siddur is the same way—the entire Birchos Hashachar is missing. I asked my son, “How do you say brachos in the morning?” and he said, “I say it by heart.” Or he comes late, because he’s in the car with me, arguing about bath mats.

Those are the things I get back. But what happened to all the Ziploc bags I sent? Every parent sent an entire box of sandwich bags, and not a single one came home at any point of the year. Is the teacher just using us to do her shopping? When I send my kid with a snack in the morning, I’m already sending it in a bag. What else do you need the bags for? And what’s happening to the bags I keep sending, that the snacks I send end up at the bottom of the knapsack without them? Someone’s walking away with bags here.

Maybe if we collect whatever’s left over from all our kids, we’ll have enough supplies to send one of them back to school. Just pick whichever one we love the least, and send him with all the old supplies and an entire wipes box of all grey markers. I’m thinking of one of our high school kids. He’s going to have the only dorm room with a bath mat.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published seven books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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