The phone rang the other evening. The voice on the other end was unfamiliar.
Mr. Mender? the voice said. This is your sons math teacher calling.
Hello, I said with a twinge of apprehension in my voice. What had the boy-child done now? I wondered.
I need your help with something, she said.
OK, I responded, the apprehension in my voice growing.
Dont worry, she said. Its nothing major.
Nothing major? I thought. The last time someone told me it was nothing major it was my son informing me about hed rolled his car down an embankment and wedged it between two trees. Nothing major? Its never good when a woman who teaches that new math for a living tells you its nothing major.
How can I help you? I asked, fighting the urge to hang up the phone and rip the cord from the wall.
Well, your son seems to be coming to class every day unprepared, she said. I found that hard to believe. The boy-child is precise to the point of being annoying about doing his homework.
Hes not handing in his homework? I asked.
No, its not that, she responded and then told me the problem is much more fundamental. It seems the boy-child comes to class everyday without anything with which to write.
Could you just make sure he brings a pencil or two with him in the morning?
I assured her I would, the apprehension in my voice had now been replaced with audible embarrassment.
Im not sure what it is with my two youngest. But writing implements escape them with regularity. I can hand them one as were going out the door and by the time we get to the car, theyll have misappropriated it to some unknown location.
Eventually they show up in the car cushions, on the floor beneath the mats, in the garden that runs next to the driveway. But they never find their way to their backpacks. Dont get me wrong. Theres plenty of useful stuff in their backpacks lacrosse balls, broken earphones, used batteries, an occasional banana peel, misappropriated homework assignments but no pens or pencils.