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December 18th, 2017

From the Belle Tower

You need WHAT for school today?

Celia Rivenbark

By Celia Rivenbark

Published Nov. 6, 2014

You need WHAT for school today?

The Princess was running late for school last week when she breathlessly rushed into the kitchen and said, "I need five cans for the food drive this morning!"

Oops. A little head's up would've been nice.

"Where do we keep our cans of food?" she asked, a note of desperation creeping into her voice.

Note to self: Do NOT say "the dryer" just to mess with her. Do not do it. Teenagers have almost no sense of humor when stressed out.

"The dryer."

"What?"

"The pantry."

The frenzied search for canned goods for the high school food drive reminded me of a gentler time. In elementary school, the teacher would tuck a little note to the parents in the kids' backpacks reminding them of what was needed for the upcoming week. It wasn't a flawless system, but it was better than nothing.

About half the time, the note ended up getting to its destination. The other half of the time, it would be lost among the fruit roll-up wrappers. One day in particular, I remember the Princess bounding out of the car, then turning back to smile and shout: "I'll see you when you bring the cornucopia for the Pilgrim's lunch today!"

"Cornu-what-ia?" I screamed from my place in the carpool line, pulling my bathrobe a little tighter.

So much for my lazy morning of Sugar Pops and Stein Mart.

I'm not one of those extreme coupon types who keeps a shrink-wrapped pallet of tomato soup under my guest bed. I tend to shop on an as-needed basis like Europeans and New Yorkers and crack addicts. So I felt terrible that the only thing in the pantry for the Princess to take to school was a can of evaporated milk, some enchilada sauce and a jar of blue-cheese stuffed olives from my Christmas stocking.

"This is awful," I huffed, desperately looking for something nourishing. "If you'd just given me a little warning..."

I was commiserating about all this with another mom the next day. She understood my canned goods shame perfectly.

"I didn't know anything about it either," she said. "And all we had to send in was some shrimp-flavored Doritos and a bunch of dental floss."

It's always gratifying when you realize that you're only the second lamest mom on the block.

On the other hand, we got off easy with a canned food drive. Another mom told me that her kid announced one morning: "Oh, yeah, everybody has to bring in a dozen light bulbs today."

Which explains why one neighborhood went completely dark that night.

The next day a mom I know mentioned taking 10 cans to the school.

"Ten! I thought it was five!" I said. I went home and ran to the dryer, er, pantry.

Nope. Still nothing.

When the Princess came home I asked her if she knew she needed five more cans.

"Well, yeah. I just bought some soup and dropped it off."

At least one of us is growing up.

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Celia Rivenbark is the author of seven humor collections.

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