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To Perforate or Not to Perforate, That Is the Question

Every summer, when the schools publish their school supply lists, the ten-year-old girl in me materializes out of nowhere. I gaze in rapt adoration at the perfectly symmetrical rows of Elmer's glue lining the shelves of our grocery store, and my heart sings.

I love school supplies – I always have. It's funny how a completely blank, two-dollar spiral notebook is the epitome of a fresh start. If it's adorned with a swirly pink unicorn, then all the better (though my strapping sons might disagree).

Every year, I have very grand visions of what our school supply quest will look like, because I thankfully have birthed three children who are (almost) as rabid about pencils and notebook paper as I am. I plan ahead carefully, and we do our shopping just as soon as the schools publish the lists. I always hope that this will be the year when we will beat the crowds, though it never works out that easily. (Why, oh why, will they not make the aisles wide enough for two baskets to pass?)

My expectations were especially high this year. It was a busy and challenging summer for our family, and I was determined that new folders (with brads! and pockets!) would be a cause for celebration. We made a whole afternoon of it, with the promise of a visit to the store's snack bar for children who managed not to make Momma crazy.

I could swear I heard angels sing as we approached the eight (EIGHT!) aisles of school supplies. We strolled through rows of folders, and my boys quickly scattered to find the ones perfect for them. There was heavy deliberation going on. What does this folder say, they wanted to know. Is purple too girly? Will I get teased for this lunchbox? I took their innocent wonderings to heart, smiling at my offspring and remembering my own back-to-school anxieties so many years ago.

Ah, yes, it was a lovely little moment. I waited for them to make their choices, while I neatly stacked the twelve (12!) boxes of crayons in our cart.

And I waited.

And I waited.

And I waited some more.

And I realized I had forgotten that turning three boys loose in an aisle with 47,000 different folders and notebooks will surely stir up some indecision. Their eager hands needed to touch every single one, it seemed. I began patiently urging them to finish. Then I urged a little harder. Still no dice. And we'd been at this a while by now.

The winsome young girl in me that is awakened by the scent of crayons was very pretty quickly replaced by the surly 35-year-old mom with a budget (and a rowdy three year old in the basket). "Boys!" I barked. "You have 10 seconds to choose 8 folders. GO!"

And they came through, those boys of mine, though their faces were exhausted from the existential quandaries raised by whether or not to go with the Trapper Keeper, and is the flexible ruler easier than the hard one, and what, really, is the value of perforation in a spiral notebook? We finished up the list, grabbing a pack of erasers and a protractor (a instrument of torture that still strikes fear into my math-hating heart), and I shuffled their spent little souls to the snack bar.

Thankfully, when you're nine, all the anxieties in the world can be put to rest with a pretzel and cheese.


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