O Desi! My Desi: Back to School Blues (or Yellows)

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O Desi-Anu_1By Anu Chitrapu
INDIA New England News Columnist

Summer is gone and we are all in the middle of back-to-school blues. Those lovely mornings where you could sneak in some extra sleep because there was no need to make and pack lunch are now gone.

Like all homes (or maybe I am just hoping here), our home was a complete mess on the opening day of school. In spite of good planning, okay maybe not so good planning, we were missing essentials, which I swear were lying around the family room all summer and then disappeared the day we needed them most. Like that big red water bottle, which we owned only because it was free at some event — I can definitely say I would never have bought such an ugly bottle. Throughout summer it was in my way. But on opening day of school it went into hiding!

I started off by congratulating myself on how well I had diligently cleaned out the backpack the previous night. I am still recovering from the ecosystem I discovered in the lunch box I found there• but that is a different story.

Luckily, both my kids don’t think much of my selection of clothing for them so I was spared the task of picking out clothes. While they got ready, I started on the task of making lunch. I wasted time dreaming about how great it would be if I could mix some yogurt rice and throw a piece of pickle into it — that is the kind of lunch that is healthy and easy. At that point I also made a note to mention to my mom next time I spoke to her, that I was such an easy kid and she really had it good with the yogurt rice option. I realized with a start that I was staring into the refrigerator and had exactly 15 minutes left before one kid left for school. I was tempted to ask the kids to buy lunch but then I would feel guilty giving up on the very first day. I mean I could do it later in September but not the first day.

I started making the quintessential sandwich. Throughout summer I was planning on how I would give the kids super nutritious lunches. I had so many ideas then but now staring at the bread, I just could not recall a single idea. And thanks to growing peanut allergies the peanut butter jelly sandwich was no longer an option and was banned from school lunch boxes. So I went with the standard cheese, lettuce, mustard sandwich and then added a cup of yogurt (that I knew would come back) and a bag of chips (which would definitely be eaten), a very sad looking apple (forgot to buy apples on the last grocery trip) and finished proudly with a small carton of organic milk.

After checking off the lunch task, I turned on the next most difficult job — combing my daughter’s long, curly hair. From past experience I knew this would not end well so I took some deep breaths till I realized I was hyperventilating. She sat still for the first two minutes while I tried unsuccessfully to get the hair brush through her hair. After the first few inches the brush got stuck and we started a discussion on why she should not have washed her hair the previous day. We added relevant points like how we should have taken out the knots the previous night… till she screamed — this time not from pain but because we were 5 minutes away from departure time. Finally, we settled on a bun, which is basically pulling all the hair into a messy lump at the back and masking it with a large band. Reminded me of the maids in India who were blessed with thick, long hair but never had time to comb it out so resorted to this ‘style’.

The kids finally left and I was about to sink down into the couch when I saw the lunch bag on the counter. I rushed out in my pajamas and managed to catch the culprit just a few doors away and hand over the lunch bag. PHEW! Luckily none of my neighbors saw me — or at least I did not see any of them. The peeping tom down the street may have been rewarded with a glimpse but at this point I was beyond caring.

Finally, it was my turn to get ready. The kids left at 7.15am and I had to leave for work at 7.30 which left me a comfortable 15 minutes to shower, get dressed and run. I decided to wear my “easy suit” to work — it was one that I could throw on with the least fuss. It was a few sizes too big for me and every time I wore it, my husband would ask if I had worn his suit by mistake. “Not that it looks bad,” he would add. I also noticed that whenever I wore that suit, people on the T quickly gave up their seat and asked me to sit.

When I reached my office, I almost threw myself on my chair, which I felt was more comfortable today than ever before. When my well-dressed colleague came in with a Starbucks cup of coffee (for her, not for me) and started going over the day’s meetings with me, I could not help but admire her French manicured nails. And then I looked down at my own nails — YUUUUUUU what was that yellow stuff? That horrible mustard! Never again, never again would I use mustard in a sandwich. I hid my hands under my desk and tried to look calm as I looked down at the sheet of paper on my desk. My first meeting of the day was going to start in a few minutes so I rushed to the ladies room, scrubbed my hands and ran my comb-like fingers through my neglected hair.

Back in my office, I took off my shoes and hid them under the desk and thought to myself — it was not that bad a morning after all! I had done everything I had planned on doing and felt good about the proverbial motherhood, apple pie and kids’ first day back at school till I remembered — I had forgotten to take the cute picture to put on facebook with a cuter tag line that read — how fast kids grow. I had planned that all summer•SIGH!

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