The Slow Roll

We are exactly eight days into the school year and I have finally found my kids’ lunch bags. This may not seem like a monumental achievement but I slow roll into September. Some folks actually read those “It’s August! Let’s Talk about School!” emails. I don’t. I don’t read them in August. It’s nothing personal. It’s not a manifesto or anything. It’s just that in August, September feels REALLY far away. And I always say, “Oh, I’ll mark it unread and go through them later.” The flaw in that reasoning is that I won’t be able to find them in September. So I don’t read those. By April, I manage to submit everyone’s vaccination records, but not in September. No. September is a blur of activity involving little bags of goldfish, alarm clocks making that horrid sound, leaking water bottles, and those “don’t make us kick you out of school” contracts that my kids sign in colored pencil (because those look so much more official than crayon).

But not everyone slow rolls into the school year. The PTO storms September like the Normans rolling into England. You might ask: When are school pictures at KES? Done! Like, a week ago. Fundraising for all the 5th grade activities in June (June!), starts now at the Back to School Picnic with tables of 5th graders selling pizza, watermelon, and even claiming a cut of the ice cream truck’s haul. Well played, 5th graders. Well played. And the coupon books sold by the PTO every year? That fundraiser is already under way.

Every event that will happen this year is already in the thick of planning with Parent-Generals leading the march for the Halloween Fair, the Classroom Parents, the After School Activities, those wonderful photo filled Yearbooks, all the Assemblies and Field Trips, and every other PTO sponsored event.

Am I the only one oblivious to the leaves which have started to turn autumnal? Everyone else seems armed and ready to attack the school year. They have lists of things that need to be done. I bet they read those August emails.

As a slow roller I took my place at the helium tank for the Back to School Picnic with two huge bags of purple and white balloons while packs of volunteers spread out tablecloths and displayed perfectly sliced watermelon. They were making popcorn and selling pizza. I, however, was in the custodian’s closet filling balloons so my daughter and her friend could run through the plaza giving out balloons like benevolent despots currying favor. Slow rollers sometimes get stuck in dusty corners.

I stood in my closet and tried to tell my daughter about the oddity of using a naturally occurring element to fill balloons but she was more concerned with orders. “Purple with white string!” “White with pink string!” “Mom! Come on! Faster!”

And then as if the cosmic enforcer was telling me something, my tank ran out of helium. No more balloons. The kids would have to suffice with the 70 or so already tied to every post, railing, bike rack, and table. And I, the slow roller, would have to roll out of my dusty closet and face what I had been unable to accept.

Summer’s over. This is the start of the school year. It’s wake up time.

I cleaned up the balloons, the string, and the scissors. I put them away in the storage closet for next year. I shut the light in the custodian’s closet and pulled the door shut.

Bravely, I rolled towards the clouds of parents and kids milling about on the playground and in the plaza. And I chatted with people I hadn’t seen in months. We talked about things parents talk about (i.e., weird charges from our kids’ cafeteria accounts) and as the evening wore on, I got chilly. My cut offs and tank top didn’t feel right anymore. I wanted to go home and get my sweatpants and my favorite yellow sweatshirt. I wanted to make soup.

I ran into a friend of mine who was taking pictures for the Yearbook. (The Yearbook?!) And another friend who asked if I was eager for next year’s Picnic. (Next year?!) “I’m a slow roller,” I wanted to explain, “I’m not ready for this year’s Picnic and it’s already half over.”

I turned myself around and around on the playground, trying to find my daughter in the swirling mob of children. “Where is she?” I thought. “Has anyone seen my daughter?” I asked.

A friend of mine walked past and said, “Nope. Haven’t seen her but, hey, I’ll see you at Curriculum Night.”

Curriculum Night? When is that? Is that another thing in those August emails I didn’t read?

My daughter ran full sprint right past me while playing tag and eating a snow cone but I was scrolling through my emails. “Hey, wait!” I yelled as she zoomed past me. “I need to talk to you!”

Ah! There! Ok. Curriculum night is, like, in a couple of days. When’s Curriculum Night for my other kids? OMG. I bet I’m in charge of snack one day soon. I should check on that. Did I ever send in those forms? Do I have to do that volunteer survey thing? What about their Girl Scout Troops? When do flu shots start? Is that soon? Have I been sleeping? Why have I not read any of my emails? All of a sudden I finally realized it is now September and at some point, my slow roll through summer brought me to a dead stop.

My daughter ran past again. “Hey! We have to go!” I yelled. “I’ve got to get my life together! And I’m cold. And it’s September. I have to read the emails! It’s time!” I yelled after her.

She looked back surprised. “It’s still summer. Why are you rushing this?”

After I arrived home, I received an email from the PTO asking for photos from the Picnic to be submitted for the Yearbook. And another PTO email advertised the 5th Grade Car Wash to benefit the fund for their end of year trip.

I’m happy to report I read those emails. I’m on a roll.



  • Anne Foray