September is here. The evening air is a little cooler, the leaves are turning in the mountains, and the grocery stores are well stocked with mums, Honeycrisp apples and Halloween candy. The kids are fully in the swing of things at school. We’re enjoying the sweet spot of the school year when assignments aren’t too hard yet and I’m not completely disorganized yet. Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. I could happily live within only the months of September, October and November forever. They are quite nearly perfect. Save one horrible, awful, soul-killing activity: school fundraisers.
We’ve been asked to buy every imaginable sweet treat and snack: candy, chocolates, cookie dough, cheesecakes, butter braids, honey, cinnamon rolls, nuts, popcorn, and pretzels. We’ve flipped listlessly through catalogs of kitchen supplies in search of something we may use once or twice. These items invariably include every infomercial gimmick since 1987. Ginzu knives? Check. Tupperware? Yup. Quesadilla maker, anyone? Microwave your poached eggs! There are rolls upon rolls of wrapping paper for every occasion, which sometimes can actually be of really nice quality, but my 30 rolls of wrapping paper hoarded in a corner of the basement make it clear that I do not need any more. Ever. We’ve purchased magazines, coupon books, gift cards. The latest request this fall was, get this – mattresses.
It’s one thing to be asked to buy these things from nieces and nephews, your friends’ and coworkers’ children. A box of Girl Scout cookies here, a tub of neon orange popcorn there, a Tempurpedic mattress…um…no biggie, right?. But it’s another thing entirely to peddle this crap yourself. I know damn well nobody wants to buy any of it because I don’t want to buy any of it. What’s worse is that the fundraising companies typically brainwash our babies with “prizes” (i.e. unused Happy Meal toys from Taiwan) and you have to listen to three weeks of your kids begging you to take the order form to work, the gym, the neighbors, and to call every distant relative they can think of so that they might win the coveted glow-in-the-dark wall-mounted basketball hoop with matching bracelet.
So it was not without a healthy amount of dread that I opened the email titled “Fundraiser” a few weeks ago to see what torture awaits us this year. And I was so pleasantly surprised – THRILLED, actually – to discover that we are asking for nothing more than cold, hard cash. Instead, the school is hosting a “Move-a-Thon” to get all of our littles up and at ’em with obstacle courses, jump ropes, and other fun activities outside on a lovely, September afternoon. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and neighbors are asked for nothing more than a fully tax deductible donation to the school’s parent-teacher organization. The PTO puts 100% of the money back in to the school on books, technology, staffing, you name it. It’s brilliant in its simplicity. The email to my family was simply “send money, please, so the boys can win a pizza party for their class. And maybe a limo ride if you send a lot of money.”
Why didn’t someone think of this sooner? Why have we been filling our guts with junk food and our landfills with junk for the past 50 years when we could’ve just written a check? I suppose the answer lies somewhere in the American need to get something for our hard-earned money, instead of being content with giving our money away. And sadly, I think this mentality persists because the Move-a-Thon that I love so dearly is not our school’s top money earner. Nope, it’s the damned cookie dough, kitchen supplies and wrapping paper that blows our fundraising goals out of the water. But in response to the parents who share my perspective, we hold the Move-a-Thon every other year, and the other crap in the opposite years. So I’ll enjoy the hell out of unabashedly asking friends and family for cash this September, with the full knowledge and dread that next September I’ll be eating cheesecake off my snazzy new acrylic dessert plates while reading my subscription to Real Simple magazine.
Man. The things they don’t tell you in childbirth classes.