I don’t remember bringing Mr. McCormick anything on the last day of third grade (though he really could have used a new corduroy blazer). Mr. Thacker? Not even a World’s Best Teacher mug. Mrs. Pruitt? It never occurred to my mom to buy her another chain for her glasses. On the last day of school, we showed up with flaccid backpacks, goofed off until the bell rang, and then merrily lugged home a year’s worth of forgotten sweaters and art projects. As we got older, we were too distracted obtaining yearbook signatures to think about a small token to thank Mr. Newton for making Physics fun. Maybe moms back-in-the-day (as my boys refer to anything that happened before 2005) arranged group gifts or wrote little letters of thanks. But certainly none of them delivered obnoxious Bloomingdale’s gift cards inside fancy letterpress envelopes to recognize a year of facts remembered.
I have no childhood recollection of this parent/teacher covenant: Thou Shalt Buy (Crap) Gifts For Teacher. Sometimes, this custom requires a slew of annoying emails to organize all moms into donating some pittance as a group nod to the exhaustive effort to keep our children from falling off monkey bars or eating paste. At the conservative Jewish preschool, we contributed our magical $18 toward something that was never a multiple of 18. (Only the enthusiastic, stupid Shiksa mom volunteers to buy The Gift.) My first year at the fancy private school, I offered to do the 11th hour gift card run, but didn’t specify a donation amount. Flabbergasted by the windfall of cash mailed by moms all too happy to be relieved of the task, I bought Mrs. Bell an $800 gift card to Bloomingdale’s. $800. For Mrs. Bell with her Dansko clogs and makeup counter-less life. I realized an $800 gift card is more ridiculous than a t-shirt emblazoned with small, smeary handprints. This end of the year gift pact can be an odd dance.
Under less forced gift-giving circumstances, I am quite good at it. I also love spending money. And for the ladies who have spent the past nine months drilling factoids, feeling for fevers, encouraging excellence, drumming out gross habits, and knowing and loving my kids, I want to buy them something fabulous. In fact, I’m overjoyed to do so. To adequately thank them for a successful year, I want to give them a case of Veuve Clicquot. But a Facebook query running many comments long suggests a Starbucks gift card will suffice.
“Thanks for being patient with Brodie’s stutter, for reading his moods, for not believing the ouchies that didn’t matter, and for celebrating everything that did. Hey, go grab yourself a coffee!”
Jason (a teacher, currently deep into grading papers… and his own bottle) suggested a good Scotch with bawdy note enclosures, “Drink up, bitches!” I could have the children write these in cursive to great effect.
Ultimately, what’s bugging me is the inability of anything in a small gift bag to embody what I feel for these women, to convey how deeply these teeny milestone moments move me (still grateful to be here for them), to let them know they did well, and that I noticed. So I’ll probably write them long, overly effusive letters of thanks… which I’ll then slip next to a nice bottle of Pinot Noir.
Drink up, bitches.