Thanks to autumn, good ol’ fashioned check writing is alive and well: school donations, school photos, church camp, hot lunch, fall carnival, wrapping paper fundraisers, magazine fundraisers, cookie dough fundraisers, field trips, sports registration, class party contributions, and most recently, the kindergarten book order.
If you are not currently placing kids’ book orders, it’s likely the same company, and same process from when you were a kid (especially you, Gen X’ers.) It’s a little newspapery thing you get that looks like the Pennysaver, but it’s chock full of kids’ titles at great prices. Ring a bell? You may remember waiting anxiously for your own books to be delivered to class, and when the day finally came, you’d see what your friends got, and you’d look at what you got, and back to what they got. You’d realize that while your friend could look forward to happily thumbing through a nearly wordless print version of the latest greatest cartoon, you were saddled with a Caldecott or Newbery award winner. The gold seal on the front would give it away. Gold seal=serious=thinking.
I wrote out my check, tore it from the newly depleted checkbook, and handed it to our kindergartener to keep track of until he could deliver it.
“Can you please make sure to give this directly to your teacher? It’s a check.”
“It’s like money.”
The blank stare was replaced by delight with a mildly alarming hint of scheming and wheel turning.
“It’s not money that you can do anything with. It’s a piece of paper that represents money.”
Blank stare followed by, “Why is USC on the envelope?”
“They sent me the envelope so I could send them a check too, for a donation.”
“Why aren’t you sending them the check then?”
“Um, we get a lot of those envelopes, and I will another day, but today it’s for the book order.”
“What book order?”
“I ordered you books from that piece of paper you brought home.”
“I picked a couple of books for you from the paper, and then ordered them, and they need this check.”
“Let me see what you’re talking about,” he said, “I didn’t know about this.” Have you seen your own words and expressions mirrored back at you? It’s disconcerting.
I handed him the flimsy little catalog. He pointed directly to the Star Wars book on the front, “that one.”
“Yes, I saw that, but I don’t think it has words, and you’re learning to read words. Real words! Plus we have a lot of Star Wars books, both with and without words.” I actually prefer the ones with just pictures, because then Zach doesn’t have to correct my pronunciation as I stumble over Padawan, and Luminara Unduli. (Oh, how I miss Luke.)
“Then that one.”
“The one about Mater?”
“Oh, that’s Mater? I guess not, I’m in kindergarten.”
“I thought this other one looked good – it said that it’s for both of us to read together – one part for you to read, and one part for me to read,” otherwise known as any book ever printed that has more than one sentence.
“Also, this Thanksgiving one,” I continued, trying to erase his skeptical look, “The turkey is looking for disguises. Sounds funny.”
Realizing the Star Wars portion of the discussion was over, he nodded and ran away with the check.
“Get it?” I called after him, “See, he needs disguises because he’s trying to escape Thanksgiving! He’s a turkey! On Thanksgiving! Funny!”
I thought it sounded funny, but once I said the plot out loud, I realized it was also kind of sad, and kind of gross, because next month, I will be eating a turkey who will have likely suffered the consequences of not having the resources to come up with adequate disguises.
We tucked the USC envelope with the carefully completed book order into his backpack. I’d been meticulous because I was thinking of the book order volunteer on the other end of this transaction. I had been the book order lady once, when our oldest was in pre-school. Talk about transactions and high finance…I was the book order person for the whole school! Everybody! 2-year-olds….3-year-olds….4-year- olds….all of them. That’s a lot of “Skeleton Hiccups,” “Brown Bear, Brown Bear…” and “Fancy Nancy. “
A USC football game would be humming along while I sat on our couch in our seminary apartment, sorting through checks and tallying the number of “If You Give a Pig A Pancake” from the order forms.
I’d shove an order form in front of John who was trying to learn Hebrew and watch football, “Hey, do you think this is a two? Or a seven? Do you think they want seven copies of ‘Pinkalicious?’ Two, definitely two. They paid for two. Good, I did not want to have to call them.” But inevitably, I would have to call, and my palms would sweat, because my half of the conversation would go something like this:
“Hi my name’s Colleen and I’m calling about your book order through the Children’s Center? Yes, you ordered from two different catalogs, so I’ll need two checks. Yes, two separate checks. The Dragonfly order form is different from the regular one…yes, I know, it’s complicated. So can I please get two new checks and I’ll give you this one back? I understand that’s three checks for two books totaling $8. I know, I’m sorry, listen, I didn’t make up this rule, but unfortunately, if you’d like me to fill this order for you, I’ll need two checks. No, I’m not threatening you…ok, it’s a dumb, dumb, ridiculous rule, there, I said it…so, you’ll send the checks tomorrow? With your 4-year-old? Perfect.”