To Whom It May Concern At My Son’s Middle School:
If you do not find my son’s name on your sixth-grade class list, it’s not for lack of trying. I attempted to register him at least two and a half times. And in two languages.
When the forms arrived in our mail this spring, I diligently verified the home address and phone numbers printed on them as instructed. They were correct, according to the phone book, as that’s where I needed to check since I received the forms for someone else’s boy at a different school.
In all fairness, the school also sent me a form with the right information for my son. It was in Spanish. But that’s why we have Google Translate.
In May, I brought the requisite multiple forms of proof of residency and my sworn allegiance to the Common Core Standards to school registration day but was turned away because I didn’t have his doctor-approved physical exam and immunization records yet.
“But the insurance company wouldn’t let me schedule his checkup until August,” I told the school nurse, who quickly gave me a copy of August dates when I could register him at city hall. Only two dates listed weren’t when our family was on vacation.
Months passed. The physical came and went well, outside of the pediatrician’s reminder to my son that “you don’t have to like vegetables, you just have to eat them.” On the appointed day I drove to city hall with his medical records, bilingual contact form and necessary DNA cheek swabs.
But not my driver’s license. I realized this halfway there.
After a vaguely legal U-turn and another 20 minutes, I arrived to a school registration traffic jam inside the government center lobby. It contained one set of frustrated people waiting to register their incoming kindergartners and a second, unaffiliated set of frustrated people wanting to get upstairs to testify before the zoning board against a local development plan. The air felt thick with enough negative energy to resurrect the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from “Ghostbusters.”
At risk of strangulation from those vacantly staring parents waiting for the number on their index cards to be called, I sidled up to a table and asked what I should do.
“Oh, middle school? Just give me your child’s medical information and someone will call you tomorrow,” the worker said.
“You don’t need my driver’s license? Property tax bill? I can quickly acquire blood samples, too.”
Nope, just the medical forms, she said.
I left, confused but relieved. A day passed, and then most of another before my cell phone rang.
Could I bring all the necessary ID forms to city hall tomorrow? “But we’re leaving for vacation early tomorrow. We’re not back until the day before school starts,” I said.
After nixing other options (“No, my wife can’t bring them. She is going on vacation with us, too. So is our dog.”), the official said my sister could submit the paperwork provided she brought a copy of my driver’s license. I felt confident about this because my sister is reliable. She also took enough college Spanish to translate my son’s forms.
Not to my surprise, while partaking in a late afternoon gimlet upon the beach house deck, my sister called my cell phone to say the person she turned the school registration forms into now couldn’t find any of my son’s medical information. At least the burning acid sensation rising up my gullet had a nice limey edge.
So, dear middle school officials, that’s why my son may not be on your list. However, if you don’t find him in on the premises at all, he probably just took the wrong bus and instead ended up at one of the local high schools. His sister already set that precedent a few years ago.
A version of this first appeared on Always Home and Uncool.
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