Expiating in Wal-Mart

For 36 years, in our family it was forbidden to say the “S-word” during the summer, at least until August. 
I can remember Nikki running in and telling on her older sister, “Dad!  Katie said the S-word.” 
She waited, expecting me to do something.  I was a little confused because I was supposed to be the adult in this situation. 
But I know so many S-words that I can’t say when my too-kind-and-loving wife is around and so I needed to know exactly what S-word she was referring to, as that would dictate an appropriate reaction.
I respond, “Really!  She did?  Why would she do that?  Just what S-word did she say exactly?” 
Nikki looked at me with the most incredulous look – something akin to, “How stupid do you think I am dad?” I could see the confusion in her eyes.
Was I trying to trick her into saying the S-word and getting in trouble with mom?
I reassured her that it was okay that when you were ratting someone out you could say the actual word and no punishment would result.
She looked both directions and then got close to my ear and whispered, “Dad.” She spelled it out: “s-c-h-o-o-l.” 
Well shucks, shoot, sufferin succotash, suck, no-shizz, son of a monkey, Shamballa, she said school?
Boy was I relieved.  You see when you are married to a schoolteacher, they do NOT want to hear the S-word before August.
Parents are on the other end of the spectrum and can’t wait until school starts.  Teachers, not so much.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I was tricked into going to Wal-Mart the other day. 
Let’s be honest, Wal-Mart is earth’s version of Purgatory. It is essentially what St. Francis described as that intermediate state after death used for expiatory purification.
I am watching other men walking about expiating for all their past sins with a vacant zombie stare in their eyes. 
We all look at each other, “You seen my wife?”
No reaction, only a nod of the head that says, “I know your pain man.”
About once a year, a brilliant thought hits my brain and I recognize it as such.  So, I decide to call my too kind and loving wife. 
“Where you at?”  Without hesitation she says, “In the school supplies.”
My brain explodes.  A few synapses misfire and I start saying a few S-words. 
No.  That’s not true. I said every S-word I know. And then I start in on all the other bad words I know, which is many more than Bruce Adams (who works with cows so he gets a free pass) and more than most longshoremen and golfers.
See? Some people are born with talents like singing, or music, or kindness. I have written entire paragraphs without a verb or noun only words that are banned from the pulpit. 
The only person that is better at swearing is Bubba, he once hit his thumb with a hammer and started a litany of melodious swear words that brought me to tears.
It sounded like a Mozart Concerto complete with an intermission so he could catch his breath and continue.
I compose myself and ask my too-kind-and-loving wife, “What are you doing in the school supplies? You know you retired, right? You turned in your keys.  They gave you presents.
“They said nice things about you. You can’t go up there without getting a visitor’s pass.  Remember, we had this talk. We are retired on a fixed income and we don’t have to buy back to school clothes or supplies.”
She giggled. “They’re not for me, silly,” and hung up. I’m pretty certain we do NOT have any school-age kids in the house anymore.  Ugh!
Teaching isn’t just a job. If they are good, they have callings for life. They love kids.  They think they can save everyone of them. 
They rest all summer so they have the energy to start over in the fall and try all over again to make a difference.
So don’t mention the S-word to any of your teacher friends. Let them bring it up first.  And be sure to be nice to all of your kids’ teachers.
You have no idea how much money they spend on school supplies, and how much they believe they can make a difference, and what emotional attachments they have formed with the hundreds of kids they teach in their lifetime. 
I am sure this is just a phase. I see Laurie Randall, a retired recovering teacher having a great time in Germany, so it must be possible to move on to the next phase of life.
If you see my too-kind-and-loving wife loitering by the school, call me so I can come and get her.

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