Richard RiouxPauline HartePatti RasmussenTim WhyteLeon Worden

Drowning in a sea of school papers

Pauline Harte · September 23, 1997

I am drowning in a sea of papers. Yes, it's back to school and the seasonal ebb and flow of a Xerox tide is slowly, steadily rising. My family room and dining area are now lost in tidal pools of multi-colored papers that must be read, signed and separated, the lower half sent back to school.

This undulating mass shifts occasionally and tiny holes are made for dinner plates but these little spaces don't last long. I pull out the TV trays. We'll eat on the couch until summer, if someone could PLEASE get the book bags off of it.

I know I'm supposed to read every single paper that comes home from school, but I don't. I think I used to, but after a decade or two, I sort of stopped. Since I'm not exactly reading everything on all of these forms, I feel slightly guilty as I wear out a couple of pens signing all this stuff the first two days of school. But soon, guilt turns to weary resignation.

I sometimes wonder if teachers spend all of their spare time in front of copy machines.

I haven't thrown out a single one of these papers since pre-school. I know that if I do throw out a single sheet I will need it tomorrow, and the educational future of a child will depend on whether or not I find that paper, so I keep them all and they have moved with us from Canyon Country to Valencia to Newhall.

But last night, at dinner, as I was heaving one of my huge sighs of resignation and looking for a few tiny spaces to set down some plates on the kitchen table, I suddenly realized that I would not have this problem next year. My "baby" will be in college and my kitchen will be spotless. Mommy's signature will no longer be required. I can already feel the quiet solitude of my empty, spotless nest closing in on me.

I'm glad I kept all those papers. They are a diary of my life in this valley for about the last fifteen years. I have papers from Creative Years Pre-school, Leona Cox Pre-school, Soledad Canyon Elementary, Emblem Elementary, Santa Clarita Elementary, Arroyo Seco Junior High and Saugus High. There are even some papers from Brownie Troops, Girl Scout Troops, and the Santa Clarita United Methodist Youth Group.

As I sift through a couple of bales of old papers, I see myself on a playground, my whistle sounding an alarm every few minutes or so. I see myself at the jump-a-thon, the walk-a-thon and all the other "thons."

I remember all the classroom birthday parties, and the crafts that I helped with that went home to other moms and dads. Most of all, I remember all the field trips. I really loved those field trips!

So many papers! So many years in the Santa Clarita Valley! What a great place this has been to raise a family. My husband and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, 23 years of which have been spent in this valley.

No, I won't be tossing those messy stacks of papers. Some fairy tales aren't perfect and orderly, with gilt-edged pages bound in leather. My stacks of messy papers are a testimony to my fairy tale life in the Santa Clarita Valley.

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