A Middle-Aged Woman Laughs at Back to School Shopping
By:  Mary Fran Bontempo

Eight pocket folders. Clear contact paper. Number two pencils. Copybooks, rulers, protractors, colored pencils, glue sticks, etc., etc., etc.

You recognize this list. It’s the dreaded back-to-school supplies shopping list. You, along with countless other wild-eyed mothers, have descended on WalMarts, KMarts, office supply stores and even drug stores, in search of everything itemized on the multiple pieces of paper you clutch in your hand.

Racing up and down the aisles, you prepare to do others bodily harm to make away with the last five subject spiral bound notebook in baby blue. You drive to five stores searching for the “right” backpack. And if they’re out of Jonas Brothers art boxes, you probably shouldn’t go home.

I sympathize; oh, I do. But all I can really say is, “Those were the days.”

I wish I were buying Jonas Brothers art boxes. As it is, I went back-to-school shopping with my daughters last week, but it was a far different experience than those of yesteryear, which (I can’t believe I’m saying this) I now recall with nostalgic fondness.

With an older daughter entering her senior year of college, and a younger daughter entering college as a freshman, I knew I wasn’t getting away with a few boxes of number two pencils and some loose-leaf. But I was still hoping to be able to eat.

We’ve done the college thing before. The list goes something like this: new sheets, a mattress pad, a mattress topper (Did you ever lie on a dorm room mattress?), pillows, towels, bed risers (you have to raise the bed in order to be able to fit more stuff underneath it), a desk lamp, a fan, laundry detergent, personal care items, flip-flops (No bare feet on dorm shower floors—Ugh!), an alarm clock…hmmm…Did I miss anything?

“Mom! I need a computer!” Right, a computer.

“And I need a printer!” A printer. Check.

“Oh, and my cell phone? It’s broken.”

“What do you mean it’s broken?”

“The screen keeps turning white and I can’t read my text messages.” Heaven forbid. A new cell phone. Check.

“I just ordered my text books online. All together they cost $489.53.”

Gulp. We haven’t even started on cute new college clothes.

I figured the older daughter would be easier. After all, this is her fourth year. We should have some of this stuff by now.

“Mom! I need a bed!” A bed? Don’t they have beds in dorms? Oh wait. No self-respecting college senior lives in a dorm. She’s moving into a house. She needs a bed, as in a mattress, a box spring and a bed frame, which, as I recall, we have to carry up three flights of stairs. No elevators in this house.

“Mom! My roommates said I’ll never survive up on that third floor without an air conditioner. It’s like an oven up there.” No central air in this house either.

“And I also need a desk. And a chair. Oh, and a rug.” Cha-ching. “But we can bring my old dressers from home. They’re not in such great shape anyway, and I’ll just throw them out at the end of the year.” Oh. Okay.

“When I was out there last week, I was looking at the kitchen stuff, you know, plates and silverware? It’s pretty disgusting. I was thinking of buying some new dishes and utensils. And I want to get some slip covers or something for the couches….”

We’re not done yet. But if you happen to see my husband and me, feel free to invite us to dinner. We’ll be the skinny, exhausted ones.

Have your own Back-to-school shopping horror stories?  Click “comments” in red, below, and share!