School supply shopping was the highlight of my upper elementary years. My heart would skip a beat at the prospect of brand new pencils, pens, and notebooks, but the  Trapper Keeper was the pièce de résistance of the entire school supply aisle. The actual attendance of school never ranked nearly as high. Ask my mom. I cried every day of first grade and threw up in the kitchen sink on the way out the door. Anxiety much?

When I had my first babies, I had an idyllic vision of school supply shopping with them. We would spend the afternoon looking at all the choices of notebooks and binders, color coordinating our selections.  At the conclusion of our family bonding shopping event, we would go out for ice cream and share our hopes and dreams of the upcoming school year. Every day in school, they would carry my love with them as they adoringly gazed upon their school supplies knowing the love and care and time we had collectively put into the purchase.

I have no idea where this all came from. It certainly wasn’t from shopping with my own mother for school supplies. (No worries, Mom! You’re the best!) I have vague recollections of arguing about my desperate need for a new Trapper Keeper. The basic models were so last year. The DESIGNER series was out, and I had to have one. You know, to go with my perm and white Keds and flowered overalls. It was the mid 80’s after all. I think that I had this one?

Bubble Trapper Keeper


Or was it this one?

Heart Trapper Keeper


The Trapper Keeper was one of the hills upon which I was willing to die, regardless of the amount of blood, sweat, or tears shed in the process. Worth it. Clearly, my failed memory supports this. I have absolutely no doubt that my mother still has it somewhere in her house. Hopefully, we can all rest a little easier tonight after she produces a picture of it for us.

I learned my lesson early on as a parent the hell that is school shopping. And this was only preschool. The list was short, but so was the attention span of my two very young children attempting to escape like refugees sitting in the cart. It turns out that shopping for washable markers wasn’t nearly as much fun as I thought it would be. When my oldest entered kindergarten, I began ordering the school supply kit from the school. It was fabulous. Not only did I NOT have to battle other people in the school supply aisle, I was guaranteed that the obscure sketch book listed would be the correct one. I know people who drove two towns over to shop school supply deals, spanning a three week time period. This is a part of their personalities that I do not understand.

I rode this sweet train of school supply kits for years. We moved from Tennessee to Illinois, and PRAISE! I could still order the kit. It was last year that I was faced with the need to actually partake in the shopping of school supplies. *shudder*

Last week, I announced to my husband that with a month left until school started, the need had arisen to purchase school supplies. This was in the middle of the store, and my two of my offspring excitedly shouted, “Let’s do it NOW!!!” Poor fools. One does not simply buy school supplies. Although I think this was actually how it happened when I was little. Did we even have lists? I think it was more like, “Pencils? Three subject notebooks? Trapper Keeper? BAM. We’re done!” I argued that I didn’t have The List, and they told me to look it up on my phone. Amateurs. One cannot manage The List for three children on an iPhone. One kid needs sticky notes; one needs wet wipes; one needs six three pronged poly folders with pockets in different colors. Not. Happening. My husband chimed in and said that he didn’t think they were on big sale yet. I stifled my instinct to mow him down with the cart then. The only thing worse than school shopping is school shopping a week before school with 400 other families when things are on big sale. Our oldest bought the wrong folders last year, so I went in the week before school when things were on big sale. It was like a war zone in there. I climbed over discarded backpacks and overturned end aisle displays searching for three pronged poly folders with pockets.  No me gusta school supply shopping.

This morning, I woke up feeling pretty spunky. After slamming my coffee, I announced that today was the day. Time for school supplies. Two kids cheered. One lamented the start of school. One pooped. See, even as a baby, he knows that this is serious business. I made copies of The Lists and handed them out along with pens. It was a random Wednesday morning. How bad could it be?

When we got to Wal Mart, the big kids headed off on their own. Waverly had to stay with me, as she cannot yet read. It started off as a frenzy. Waverly dashed down the aisles like she was on Supermarket Sweep, throwing protractors and pencil sharpeners in the cart, narrowly missing the baby’s head. It was all too much too soon. “STOP!!!!” I yelled. “This isn’t on The List! Put it allllll back!” Once I got her on track, Caleb decided to wail. We weren’t moving fast enough. I gave him the snack trap half full of oyster crackers. Surely this would buy me time. He was all, “What is this? I don’t feed MYSELF!” At least this was my interpretation of what he meant by pitching the snack trap and throwing his head back in screams and sobs. Cool. Whatever. I can feed you oyster crackers while I track down fine point black Sharpies and thin Expo markers. Not. Because they’re out. Meanwhile, Braden and Annalise got into an argument over the value in purchasing 50 cent folders versus 17 cent folders. Price, durability, and each other’s character were brought into question. None of this was happening with the calm Mennonite family of ten that was also shopping on the folder aisle with us. At that moment, Waverly chose to announce to the front half of Wal Mart that Caleb was chewing on a Sharpie. “I know, honey,” I explained calmly. “I gave it to him. The cap is on. CALM DOWN!” I took said Sharpie and gave Waverly fruit snacks to feed Caleb so that I could solve our next dilemma: pencil pouches. The mere sight of food set Waverly off into hysteria over when we would be eating lunch. At 10:30 am. She wanted her own snack. This was just the right time for a nice lecture on the age at which it is no longer appropriate to snack your way through a store. News flash. You’re there, Waverly. Back to the pencil pouches. There are pencil pouches that cost $0.97 and pencil pouches that cost $8.97. Obviously, I opted for the cheapest since they will be thrown away in a matter of months. However, my tween daughter disagreed. If Wal Mart carried a line of pencil pouches adorned with Swarovski crystals, this is what she would choose. Hey, she has good taste. But Mama ain’t buying the nine dollar pencil pouch. Oooook. We’re done. But wait! Braden still  hasn’t gotten folders! Back to the folder aisle where we earned our bad reputation. Braden needed folders in varying colors, but the 50 cent poly folders only came in a few options. “We’re not paying $1.97 for that orange folder,” he said, shaking his head. God love him. “Braden, honey, just get the orange folder. I don’t even care at this point,” I said. Wrong phrase to utter when you have been in the school supply section for an hour and a half. (I had fought the urge to pee for 45 minutes at that point. A bathroom trip would extend this trip by a good 30 minutes.) They began peppering with me with questions:

Can I get a stapler?


Can I get these pens?


Can I get cookies?

No, no, no.

Can we go out to eat?


Can I get this binder with the dogs on it?

NO!!! Unless it is on The Lists, the answer is NO!!!

Aaaaahhhhhhhh! Mamamamamamamama.

*I produced a half eaten package of peanut butter crackers for the baby.*

The nice Mennonite family appeared again. Super.

After our two hour excursion, we did eventually find fine point Sharpies and thin Expo markers, thanks to my genius idea to check out the office supply section. It’s a well kept secret, friends.

Now I’m off to eBay to relax and reminisce via the vintage Trapper Keeper listings.


Leave a Reply