photo: RODNAE Productions/Pexels

How many mugs could one teacher possibly need? Or candles. Or those little inspirational signs with quotes like, “you don’t just teach, you inspire” or “the wonder of teaching is watching caterpillars become butterflies.” Really?

Every year I go through this and every year I feel like there are no words, mugs or candles that smell like every mixed drink from here to Havana sufficient enough to articulate my sincere gratitude for the people who put up with my kids 180 days out of the year.

And so I’m strolling through TJ Maxx the other night, waiting for my middle schooler — who insisted at 8:15 p.m. on a Wednesday that every single article of clothing in her closet was no longer worthy for the wearing and that there was no conceivable way she would even consider being in attendance at school on Thursday without the perfect pair of jeans that looked like they maybe went through a paper shredder/got run over by a garbage truck paired with something presented as a shirt of suitable school attire but upon further inspection was indeed an undergarment — when I found myself in the mug aisle.

It is a great place to hide, by the way, if you ever find yourself in the predicament of having to tell your tween-age daughter that she cannot buy a $124 pair of Converse sneakers or a mini-fridge, and so there I stood, perusing ceramics, wondering what a good mug alternative might be for anyone who has to bear witness to bare midriffs and what used to be jeans all day.

I suppose if anything, a mug didn’t seem big enough. I mean if I were working with middle schoolers all day, I’m pretty sure I’d want something more along the lines of a bowl or a keg, a coffee keg for the Middlebrook staff lounge.

“Do you sell those here? Where can I find a teacher gift that’s not a mug?” I asked the saleswoman, who promptly directed me to the candle aisle but something about buying a pina colada-scented, four-wick for the saint of a woman tasked with reading my daughter’s essay on “Why Ariana Grande should be president” when really she deserved the real deal with a side of chips and guac and maybe a mariachi band playing in the background, left me, for lack of a better word, languishing.

It takes a special kind of human to work with middle schoolers and maybe a touch of insanity. Yes, every time I drive the seven minutes to Middlebrook in the morning, choosing my words (and the radio station) wisely, being beyond careful not to comment on the undergarment of further inspection or roadkill jeans, I am thankful (in no particular order) for Dr. Priest, Mrs. Nobles, Bill Gerundo, Nurse Nancy, the nice woman whose name I don’t know but who stands outside and greets population puberty with a smile plastered to her pretty face — you are the wind beneath my wings.

Ms. Schlitz and Ms. LaBarbera, I’ll miss you most of all from June 22 through August-can’t-come-soon-enough-29. From me to you please enjoy a well-deserved reprieve from no shortage of excruciatingly inane excuses that the dog we don’t have ate the homework she didn’t do. Eat, drink (heavily) and be merrier than a mariachi band every time you have the pleasure not to write a hall pass for another hysterical headache or hangnail. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, Imperfect Attendance doesn’t win itself these days.

In closing, I will not be purchasing you mugs this year or bowls or a keg the size of a kiddie pool for the staff lounge nor will I be showering you with candles one could definitely get inebriated on. There will be no sappy inspirational quotes about butterflies or caterpillars or any other disturbing insect analogies, no gift cards for lattes, that I myself can’t afford but refuse to acknowledge my addiction to. No. This year, good teachers of Middlebrook, I will be giving you one thing and one thing only, the ultimate gift really, the one that keeps on giving, at least for 10 weeks: a break from my daughter. I bet summer never looked so good, huh? You can break out those candles and mugs now. Oh, and by the way, you’re welcome.

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.