Friday, August 28, 2009

The Dog Ate My Homework...Or Something Like That

I knew I was in trouble the first day of school this year. On the way, both kids were excited, and a little bit nervous. You can tell Nikki’s excited because she talks—constantly. She talks constantly anyway, but Monday, she was talking like a squirrel on helium—a sort of high-pitched chatter. When she gets this way, I always think about lending her out to the CIA to help break high-level al Qaeda operatives.

I would do it, too, but they probably couldn’t have her back by bedtime, unless they have one of their secret prisons in West Columbia. Which they very well may. There are a lot of inexplicable things over in West Columbia people don’t know about like a knick-knack place that also sells fresh peaches and tomatoes. No other produce—no okra, or green beans, nothing, but I digress.

As a lawyer friend of mine from Memphis says when he meanders from his main thought, “So, anyway…” Nikki brings home her math homework. She does it. I check it. Now granted, I ain’t exactly Pythagoras, but I seem to remember that 14 minus 9 does not equal 15. I’m thinking she may be the next Bernie Madoff or perhaps the next Cash for Clunkers Czar.

We erased. And erased. We put 9 in our heads and counted up to 14. We got it right.

Then today there was a note from her math teacher in her agenda (that’s what my kids’ school calls its assignments book): “Nikki needs to turn in her summer work.”

I cringed. I had thrown it away when we were done!

When the report cards come out for the last day of school, they come with a packet of summer assignments: reading and math. The reading comes with specific instructions on whether or not book reports are required, and if so, they are due on day one the following year. Ironically enough, the instructions for the more specific of the two disciplines, math, are more ambiguous.

The kids get one math problem per day to complete over the summer. Our general “M.O.” is to do a week’s worth in one sitting. I distinctly remember asking my son, Alexey, on the first day of school last year whether the teacher had collected his summer math work. No, was his answer. I remember it because I felt rather bitter—not at having them take the time to complete it—but at having held onto all summer for the purpose of turning it in.

I moved it from one pile to the next, mixed it in with my papers, and unmixed it again. I attached it to the fridge with a magnet, only to have it fly halfway across the kitchen every time I opened the door in search of the queso dip—all just to by “psyched” by the math teacher in some great game of “arithmetic” chicken.

Only it appears this year, I am the one who flinched. Like the final scene of “Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark,” I can hear the ominous dirge in my head. I can envision zooming in on the wind-blown, sun bleached, missing math papers in some large anonymous landfill. Scribbled in No. 2 pencil in the answer block for June 26 is the equation, “16 + 21= 8.” The papers are covered with caramel candy apple goo, crumpled, and anchored to the dump by a large clod of dirt. Never to be seen again.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry for Nikki, but you make me feel better about never quite understanding what I'm supposed to do when it comes to school. I think some parents have a kind of telepathy that helps them understand what is expected and others, like you and me, don't. I knew I was sunk when I so proudly sent in a brown paper bag for 4K only to have it sent home because it wasn't the right size. Nobody said anything about what size it was supposed to be. I've been on the losing end of this ever since.

    Very funny post. Tell us more about squirrels on helium and secret prisons in West Columbia.