"Find any pencils lately?" they ask. They know we are at the point in the school year where we are running low on the pre-sharpened pencils I bought at the beginning of the year with school supply money. Now, I keep my eyes to the tiles, rescuing dropped and abandoned pencils I find in the hall. I doctor them up with a hand-held sharpener and a neon pink cap eraser. I hand over a rescued pencil, stifling a heavy sigh.
"Does anyone have lined paper?"
"May I use your scissors?"
"I left my binder in my locker."
"Is it okay if I bring the vocabulary homework in tomorrow? It's on my kitchen counter."
"Could I call my mom and ask her to sign my permission slip?"
"Could I use some crayons?"
I dole out a shocking amount of free school supplies.
Despite the temptation to lecture, I usually just hand over the tape or black Sharpie or my own personal pouch of colored pencils. My students are, after all, only 12-years-old; and any harsh words from me would only postpone (even longer) the work that needs to be done.
They know, though, that I am disappointed by their lack of preparation. My lips form a thin straight line instead of a smile; and my eyebrows arch into question marks...questioning their irresponsibility.
I send them a silent reprimand; and though I don't say a word, I might as well shout. "It's a school day. You've been to school hundreds of days. You know what you need to bring to school!"
* * *This morning, I woke up early, thinking I had plenty of time to straighten the house, drink a cup of coffee, walk the dog, wash a couple loads of towels, run through the cash machine, and still have time to drive my 14-year-old son to his out-of-town lacrosse game. I even thought I had plenty of time to write my slice before we headed out. I sat down on the couch and reached for the laptop, pausing to check for messages on my cell phone. That's when I realized I had misread the schedule. The game was twice as far away as I had thought. I launched into panic mode. Fortunately, I had already walked and fed the dog. The towels would have to wait. My son loaded his lacrosse bag into the back of the car, I hit reverse, and we leaped out of the garage. My son put the field address into the GPS; and I crossed my fingers that we had enough gas to get us there.
We arrived at the field just in time for my son to hop out and hurry over to the team for warm-ups. The rain started as soon as he got out of the car. Wasn't it supposed to be warmer today? I had not had time to check the weather. On the way out of the house, I had grabbed my short winter jacket (the one without the hood) instead of my long, puffy winter coat.
After parking, I climbed out of the driver's seat. It felt really chilly, and the wind was blowing. I rummaged through the back seat while misty rain frizzed up my hair. I found my raincoat (thank goodness!), balled up in the back floorboard, and I put it on over my winter jacket. I looked and felt all bunched up; but at least I had a hood now. A pair of thin, fleece mittens were stashed in the glove box; one was ripped at the wrist, but they would have to do. The shell for my older son's ski jacket was in the trunk, along with an old picnic blanket. I gathered it all up, hoping to make do. It was raining harder now; and the weather app on my phone confirmed my suspicions. It was only 40 degrees! Since there had been no time for the cash machine, I was relieved to find four dollars in the zippered part of my wallet and four quarters in the console...just enough for the price of admission, but not enough to buy hot chocolate at the concession stand.
I was facing a miserable hour and a half.
Of course, my comfy stadium seat was folded neatly on top of the thick stadium blanket...back home in our garage.
I spread out my picnic blanket on the hard bleachers and wrapped my son's ski coat around my legs. I'd left home in my lightweight Adidas running shoes; and without my rain boots, the hem of my jeans was soaked through. My thick socks were at home in my sock drawer; and the short socks I had on didn't even cover my ankles.
I was unprepared. I had been irresponsible. I looked and felt like a sorry excuse for a fan.
Over the years, I had attended hundreds of spring sporting events. I knew what I needed; but today I didn't have it when I needed it.
Sitting there, hunkered over in the cold, a steady rain dripping off the hood of my raincoat (the sports umbrella was in my husband's car), I thought of all the little faces who had looked at me with hopeful eyes, holding out their hands to borrow pencils and pens and paper and paperclips. I vowed that if my feet thawed out by Monday, I would hand over whatever they needed with a smile and a wink and a little one shoulder hug.
"We all forget what we need sometimes," I might say encouragingly. "Don't let it get you down."