According to the aisles of Target, "Back-to-School" shopping has been in full swing since Memorial Day. But I would never dream of undertaking this important ritual before the very last days of August. Perhaps my need to hold off on buying school supplies comes from a romantic desire to hold on to every last drop of summer. Somehow buying a Trapper Keeper, ballpoint pens, as well as a swimsuit and my seasonal vat of sunscreen on the same shopping trip in June seems incongruous and kind of depressing to me -- as if the dog days of summer never really got their full due.
But I think the real reason my kids and I like to cut it so close when it comes to purchasing our back-to-school scissors is that we all love the thrill of the hunt. Back-to-school shopping is like our own personal near-west-side "Amazing Race." We know that if we wait long enough, it may be possible to experience the dizzying high that can only occur when you've scored the very last two-pack of gummy pink erasers at Walgreens. One of our greatest victories, two years back, was uncovering the only remaining scientific calculator on the entire west side.
And every year we hope to encounter the Holy Grail of school supplies-- the non-perforated wide-ruled spiral notebook. In years of shopping I've found perforated wide and non-perforated college-ruled, but I've never actually encountered these two attributes in the same notebook. This must have been the way peanut butter and chocolate lovers felt before Reese's. But like Don Quixote, Big Foot hunters and all other adventurers before me, I will not give up on the Impossible Dream.
But as with all cheap (or in this case, not-so-cheap -- have you seen the price of Scotch tape lately?) thrills, the strategy of waiting-'til-the-last-minute is not without risk. I've definitely lost out playing this type of retail roulette before. There was the one year that my going-into-sixth-grade son and I were unable to find Ticonderoga brand pencils in any of our regular haunts.
While I may have been willing to risk buying off-list when it came to writing instruments, there was no way to convince my kid that all No. 2s are created equal; darn those Ticonderoga marketing folks and their "World's Best Pencil" claim. And my younger son may never forgive me for waiting so long on school supplies that the only folders left in our vicinity had either Justin Bieber or Hello Kitty emblazoned on the front.
But hopefully by the time you read this, less than a week away from the start of school, all three backpacks will be filled to the brim with everything on the list. Some of the contents may be rescues from last years supply -- at least 42 members of the 64 count Crayola box survived third grade and are ready for fourth.
I do, though, welcome any thoughts on where I might still be able to find the ever-elusive non-perforated wide ruled spiral notebook. But please don't suggest I look online-- that somehow feels like cheating on "back-to-school" shopping. And that's hardly the best way to start an academic year, no?