School Today: Eraserboard Jungle

Letter Share

One of the worst parts of kindergarten is a feature called “Letter Share.” Once a week your child comes home with a brightly colored square with a letter in a contrasting, yet equally bright color, mounted on the center. The whole thing is laminated for resiliency. On the back, the square says, “Today I am bringing this letter card home. Tomorrow I will bring an object in a paper bag. The object will start with the sound of the letter on the front of the card so my friends can guess what it is. Ask your child what other items have been shared; do not repeat!”

Sounds easy, right? It has to be an object that starts with the appropriate letter, and it has to fit inside a paper bag. It IS easy, if you are lucky enough to have a child whose letter share day is Monday of each week. For “B” you can bring a ball or a stuffed bear or a book.

I am never lucky, and this year Drew has Thursday and Porter has Friday. Consequently, for us it is a weekly nightmare. More than once I have prayed,”Lord, please show me an object that starts with [insert letter] quickly so that we can bathe these kids and stick them in the bed.”

Out of desperation, we have drawn a “wombat” for “W’ week, and taken a “cork” (still faintly damp) for “C.” We’ve searched for a “roly-poly” which stayed in the paper bag because it was dead, and we’ve sent a Fodor’s guide to New York City to illustrate “vacation.”

Last week Porter came home with a red “Y” on a purple background. “Y” is always hard, because the Monday people take yoyos, yarn and Yugi-oh cards, and by Tuesday someone has even drawn a picture of a yak. “Yellow” had been taken. No one in our house wears a yarmulke. I offered to teach Porter how to yodel, but once he learned how he pointed out that you can’t put a yodel in a bag. I thought he was being pretty nitpicky, because he certainly doesn’t think much about rules on a daily basis.

After I had instructed him to draw a picture of the yard and he refused, I was through with the whole affair, and I told him to go take a bath. Instead, I heard him yell, “Hey, I have a great idea!” as he ran towards the kitchen.

I turned my attention to helping Drew read his book and practice his word families. About fifteen minutes later, Bill came in the room and said, “Honey, did you tell Porter he could play with the food in the kitchen?”

“Of course not,” I said. Every night after dinner, I clean the kitchen until it is spotless, and then I close the door so no one will go in there until morning. Just knowing it is clean overnight, even though I can’t see it, makes me feel like a great domestic CEO.

“Well, maybe you ought to go in there and see what’s up,” he said. So I did.

Porter was perched on the counter, with what appeared to be the entire contents of the refrigerator arrayed before him. He was surrounded by eggs, jelly, hoison sauce, capers, cream cheese, A-1, mustard, horseradish, carrots and Rose’s lime juice, none of which, you will notice, start with the letter “Y.”

“Porter Glamore!” I shrieked. “What are you doing?”

He held up a baggie filled with a reddish liquid with various things floating in it. I took the bag and peered in. I saw an egg and a glob of jelly, but the rest was unidentifiable. It smelled spicy, like a combination of horseradish and steak sauce.

“Porter,” I said, in what I hoped was a civil manner, as Bill was right beside me peering over my shoulder, “Why are you making this mess?”

“It’s not a mess, Mom. It isn’t,” Porter said absentmindedly, as he poured a little ketchup into the baggie. “It’s my homework.”

I just stared at him, and at my counter, which thirty minutes earlier had been pristine, scented with lemon Pine Sol, and which now was slippery with egg white and anchovy paste and smelled of the sea.

I clutched Bill’s arm. “You deal with this. I’m feeling faint,” I said.

Just then Porter sealed the baggie and held it up in the air.

“I’m finished!” he proclaimed.

“Finished with what, exactly?” I asked.

“Finished with my letter share. I have the letter “Y,” and this,” he said, as he pointed to the bag, “is Yucky Stuff.”

We stared at him, and then at each other in amazement. Frankly, I have never been sure that Porter has much between his ears. His actions, which only a moment before had been pissing me off, now took on an entirely new and favorable meaning: the Yucky Stuff was undeniable proof that Porter had inherited my creativity and drive!

I insisted on double bagging the Yucky Stuff so the teacher would not be upset, and together Porter and I replaced the contents of the refrigerator and wiped off the counters, this time with Citrus Fantastic.

“Porter,” I said as we finished up, “I am very proud of you for thinking that up all by yourself. But don’t EVER get in my kitchen again without asking me first, or you’ll make me crazy.”

“Yes ma’am,” he said. “This is sure going to gross out the girls! It is. They are going to think it’s really yucky.”

“I’m pretty sure you’re right,” I replied, and we headed off to his bedroom.

As I tucked him into bed and kissed him goodnight, I smelled a mixture of toothpaste, cherry-banana shampoo, and anchovy. At that moment (and only for that moment), it smelled like heaven.