Sunday, October 09, 2005

Fund A Mental

Hi, I just happened to be in your neighborhood. I noticed that your back door was ajar and decided to take a look in your kitchen cabinets (love the contact paper, by the way), and I couldn’t help but notice that you’re still storing your cereal in cereal boxes. You know, Tupperware does a fabulous Cereal Server™ with their first-in, first-out feature, which allows you to put the cereal in the bottom and pour out through the top, which will keep you from getting stale cereal, and who likes that? Also, I noticed that you don’t have a lot in the way of Christmas table accessories (whew, is your crawl space dusty!), and I immediately thought of the Tupperware Bell Ornament Place Card Holders™, which is fun for the Christmas season, and also a lovely housewarming present. And if you have a friend who celebrates other holidays, don’t fret, you can never go wrong with the Tupperware Sheerly Elegant Butterfly Server™ which comes in emerald and clear and can hold a variety of food items including fruit. Who doesn’t like fruit?

So, either you can buy a couple of Tupperware items from me that you need anyway, or we can talk about what I found in your medicine cabinet.

Yeah, Daughter’s school is having a fund-raiser, and I have a catalogue in my purse. I’d feel better about carrying around a live strep-throat culture; at least then I’d know it was an object to be kept away from people. Instead, though, I have to find friends and loved ones, shove the increasingly grubby catalogue into their hands like a used Kleenex and mumble “Fund-raising. Buy, please?” At which point my friends go through the catalogue, trying to decide whether they need Butter Huggers™ (“…Dispenses butter when rubbed across ear of corn. Includes area for salt...”) or Stuffables™ (“…Flexible seals that expand, so you can overstuff them with irregular or odd-shaped objects such as pork chops..”). I know they don’t need either. They know they don’t need either. I know they know they don’t need either. But the ones who are related to Daughter will buy something to support her, and my friends do it to support me and support their school.

That’s right, I said their school. Every close friend I have right now has a child under fifteen, and they all know that before December is done, they will be shoving their fund-raising catalogues into my ribs. After only two years of the kid-in-school circuit, I have developed distinct favorites. I like ducks best of all; I buy some rubber ducks, they float someplace in some sort of competition, and I never hear about them again. I will never win the weekend in Palm Springs(Grand Prize), the gift certificate for a luxurious massage (2nd Prize), or the not-quite-complete set of Calphalon pots (3rd Prize), but I don’t care.

Wrapping paper is useful, but problematic. First of all, the paper is hugely marked-up. I know this shouldn’t be about buying deeply-discounted expendables -- I usually buy a closet full of Christmas supplies on December 26th -- but when it’s three times as much as it would be in a store, it starts feeling too much like a shakedown (“…You want your kid to learn the last 13 letters of the alphabet, you’d better push the entire Country Cuties™ gift wrap package…”). Also, only about twenty percent of the inventory in a catalogue is actually wrapping paper -- the rest is a gallery of must-have collectibles, assuming you are the kind of person who must have a ceramic figurine of an angel-faced child of indeterminate gender, in pastel pajamas, huge eyes gazing heavenward, with the words “My Gramma Wuvs Me” carved in gilded script at his/her feet. I can only speak for my family, but if I brought that into her house, my mother would throw fireplace tools at my head.

These catalogues are an embarrassment of riches in objects which hold no appeal for me at all. Apparently, the good people who publish these catalogues have done copious research proving beyond any reasonable doubt that mothers of elementary-school children LOVE THE HOLIDAYS! Not only do we LOVE THE HOLIDAYS, we cannot get enough of any holiday, no matter how obscure! The target audience of every fund-raising catalogue has asked herself the question: “How am I going to decorate the hot-water heater to best commemorate Arbor Day?”

They have Halloween gnomes you can hang from lampshades, Easter-bunny pixies to hide in flower pots, Valentine cherubs to stick on your picture window, and St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun t-shirts to wear as you lie in a puddle of your own green beer-soaked vomit. I haven’t found the Memorial Day “Commemorate-Our-War-Dead and End-Of-Season-Shoe-Sale” doorknob hanger, but it’s out there. Since I have an aversion to bringing one more object into this house which is relevant for only one week a year, and since I must buy something from this kind woman who has already bought something from me, I get wrapping paper. I figure with my deeply discounted December 26th savings, my inventory costs pretty much even out. Better yet, I can say without fear of contradiction there is no holiday so obscure I don’t have a wrapping paper for it. An Armistice Day present for a six year-old boy who likes reptiles? Far left corner, behind the Ramadan ribbon.

But the worst, of course, are the candy catalogues. Nothing but second-rate chocolate, as far as the eye can see, usually in a tin decorated with holiday-themed teddy bears (I’m guessing research shows we mothers of the school-age really spin for teddy bears). I sit at Gymnastics, holding a catalogue and frowning.

A two-pound rectangle of milk chocolate with “2005” written on top? Nope. That only gives me two months to gift it.

A massive bag of chocolate-covered pretzels? Nope. I got them last time and had the suspicion that dipping them in chocolate-colored wax was how manufacturers got rid of pretzels too stale to sell in third-world vending machines.

Walnut fudge or pecan turtles, so I can pretend the nuts negate every other toxic ingredient? Nope. Non pariels, because no one in the house really likes them so they might actually last a week? Nope.

I will spend more than two hundred dollars this year on the fund-raisers of friends, all of whom will spend somewhere in that neighborhood on the fund-raisers of their friends. I know we’re doing this because not everyone can afford anything beyond what they are paying in tuition or school fees, which is why the fund-raising is voluntary (a word that takes on a new elasticity after you have been pulled aside by the fund-raising chair at your school).

But I’m going to suggest something here: couldn’t we just give this money directly to the schools? About sixty percent is going to the wrapping paper/chocolate Santa/personalized pen people, anyway. If we want to keep it in the fund-raising spirit, the fund-raiser can randomly grab a different parent each week and crow over the new soccer balls while the parent writes a check. The school gets to keep more money and the parent gets the same feeling of accomplishment without having to find a place to stash another two foot-high decorative tin of chocolate-covered packing material.

In the meanwhile, though, I have you down for the Saucy Silicone Spatula™ and the Thatsa Bowl ™ in Lacquer blue, right?


Blogger Melodee said...

That's a great idea. But in the meantime, my 7-year old has a catalog for Dough-to-go Pre-Portioned for added convenience only $9 each. Any takers?

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My kids' school came up with a brilliant fundraiser. They have a "membership drive" to get parents to pay $25 to join the Parents' Association that they already belong to by virtue of enrolling in the school. It gets tacked on as an optional drop in the bucket on an astronomical fall tuition bill and everybody pays.

Forget wrapping paper and gnomes, protection rackets bring in the big money...

3:03 PM  
Blogger torontopearl said...

And my kids' school had put out the most elegant, yet practical KOSHER cookbook. It was a two-year project in the making. I was on the editing committee; hubby was on the recipe-testing committee (something wrong with this picture?). It was a financial success in Toronto; the venture has since spread its wings and flown across the U.S.
I think cookbooks ( a personal touch of a school's parent and administrative body) beat plastic mixing bowls, hands down! But then again, I sure could use some of those plastic mixing bowls in preparing some of those lovely recipes...

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you are really serious, I do know some people who actually WANT some Tupperware. Why just last week, a friend was remarking about it. So post if you want a few neighborhood folks to email you...

But I'm out. I bought all my Tupperware at a Phranc concert in Santa Monica a few years back. She sells Tupperware as a side gig to subsidize the music making.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Here I was just thinking this week "Haven't heard from Rebecca lately, maybe her charming child decided to arrive".
I'd gladly take any Tupperware money, but the catalogue we use has only about seven pages, and the big basics are missing.
Stick with Phranc.

7:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Phranc selling Tupperware - now that's creative. I wonder if she got the idea from the LA Times article a few years ago about a drag queen with a 50s schtick who was the top saleslady in the LA area - so successful that you had to wait months to book a Tupperware party with her. As I recall, s/he was an out of work actor who started sellng Tupperware as an alternative to waiting tables. Of course, after the article came out, s/he probably optioned the film rights and quit Tupperware.

8:37 PM  
Blogger marta said...

1. ugh,,school fundraisers.
2.I got a nikon camera,,that song has been playing in my head for the last week, because my daughter just bought a Nikon camera.
3. Puffs Plus (with lotion)will not shred to bits in the laundry. In fact they will come though clean and whole. Quite possibly the Puffs company is missing out on a lucrative marketing slant: reusable tissues!!
4.looking for crying music: I loved the "Everybody loves Raymond" episode where Debra did the very same..she used the theme from "Ice Castles"
5.I love your writing!

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YES! Thank you for asking. We are the proud parents of a fabulous baby girl, born 9-20. Parenthood...amazing, astonishing, intimidating. She's this little Cartesian whirlpool, ever changing, ever evolving.

But breastfeeding is a real bitch.

And about Phranc, I went to that party about five or six years ago (and she'd been doing it for a while even then), so I claim the drag queen stole Phranc's shtick!

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my god, I HATE the school fundraiser stuff. I was in line at a store once and the clerk was asking another clerk if he'd support her son's school by buying lottery tickets and he said yes, will you support my daughter's school and buy chocolate and I asked them to hand me money so I could more effectively homeschool my kid.

Anyway, I know of a school in Idaho decided to do a yearly walkathon that's been a huge success. The kids and parents have a nice walk and there's no Wuvely Angels to throw in the trash the next day.

8:25 AM  

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