Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Great Butcher Paper Drama

silas wrapped in butcher paper
Photo credit: Timothy Vollmer
I was reading this post on Epbot about the giant clock Cake Wrecks Jen and her husband built for their bedroom, when I spied the words, "White butcher paper is ideal, since it comes in big rolls (check specialty paint or hardware shops)" and had a flashback to the fifth grade.

My teacher decided that we were all going to trace our bodies onto butcher paper, then...I don't remember - probably draw in all the major organs. Which, OK, fine. Totally educational there. 

But we had to obtain the butcher paper ourselves. All sixty of us. The teacher told us to just go to the butcher and ask for 5 feet of butcher paper. The one butcher in the entire neighborhood.

Because apparently, she couldn't just ask the one butcher in the neighborhood to donate a roll of paper. She had to ambush this long-standing family business with SIXTY separate requests for paper.

I mean, this was Catholic school. She could've just sent over a nun. But no. It was the 1980s and adults were not expected to have their shit together.

So I obtained my 5 feet of butcher paper, or more likely my Dad did. Then the big day came. And I forgot it at home. We didn't need it until after lunch, so I had time to get it. 

Except that I wasn't going home for lunch that day because my mom was substitute teaching at my old school (the Montessori one, the one where I was never sent on crazy art supply finding missions). That day, my brother and I were having lunch at my Grandma's house - a few blocks away from school.

My house was a mile away from school, and we always took the bus to and from school. So taking 30 minutes out of my lunch hour (which was really 45 minutes) to walk home and get the butcher paper wasn't really on the table. And Grandma didn't have a car that day for whatever reason.

So we called my Dad at work, who called the butcher to ask them to set aside another five feet of butcher paper for me. I stopped by the butcher on the way back to school and asked for the paper. One of the guys behind the counter said that they were out because all of my friends had cleaned them out. 

I was heartbroken. Horrified. I'm getting chest pains just thinking about it.

The guy was awfully nice about it. Just think how pissed off they must've been to have an unexpected run on paper. Paper that they usually wrap around meat that they sell to paying customers. They were probably down to half a roll and were hiding it in the freezer.

I was NINE. It was like I'd run right into a brick wall. I said, "But my Dad called," in the saddest, most defeated voice I'd ever heard come out of my mouth. 

One of the other butchers stepped in and handed me the one last roll of butcher paper that they'd set aside because my Dad had called. I don't have words for how relieved I was. I'd been spared the humiliation of being the only one in class who hadn't obtained their regulation five feet of butcher paper. 

So what did I learn from this class project? Not whatever the teacher was trying to teach us, that's for sure. The whole thing about drawing the major organs is just a guess. It sounds reasonable.

At the time, I learned that Catholic school was bullshit. I mean, come on. The tuition, the required $5 minimum donation to the Church every week, the fundraising chocolate bars - did none of it cover the cost of a roll of art paper? The teacher had to do a lesson plan far enough in advance that she had enough time to order one from a catalog (or from the butcher). 

The forced, insincere praying four times a day was bad enough. Did they have to dump a huge load of stress on me over paper?

I swear, parents these days are so hyper-organized and Pinterest-happy because we were  foraging for school supplies when we were ten. It was only going to escalate from there.

Did you have some ridiculous drama in grade school?


  1. I'm sorry to report that not all parents have it together yet. I have scrounged Halloween costumes for my kid's classmates, bought a ridiculous amount of white t-shirts every time a white t-shirt craft comes along so everyone has one, and every time I've volunteered for a field trip there's at least one kid who gets left at the school because the parents didn't fill out the paperwork. I feel so, so bad for those kids.

    1. That's kind of a relief.Though with the t-shirts and permission slips, I wonder if disorganized kids not letting their parents know if sometimes at fault. But Halloween? How do you not know it's coming?


All the cool kids are commenting. Give it a try, it's fun!