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The Top of the Box

The Top of the Box

I’ve always secretly congratulated myself for not being one of those people with an addictive personality.

I drink, sure. But I consider that to be more “prescriptive” than “addictive.” In fact, if you have more than two kids and DON’T drink, I judge you. Seriously, what are you trying to prove. You’re not fooling anyone.

I have food issues. That’s no surprise. But I don’t count food as an addiction…or even a serious problem…since I have to eat to stay alive and which without I would have to shop in the kids’ section because I would be TOO thin and that would be awful since kids’ clothes are made by teenage pop stars who can’t go three words without saying the word “like” and OH MY GOD I SMELL BROWNIES.

OK, well maybe food isn’t a good example.

Let me just get to the point.

Funny unrelated side note which may address the second sentence of this very post. When I first typed the word “point” it came out “pinot.” Judge away.

Back to the POINT of the story.

Something has been brought to my attention. It appears I have an addiction. And I’m in such new territory that I have absolutely no idea how to address it–much less fix it.

Box Tops.

There. I said it. It’s out there. Step One in the set of Twelve. Admitting the problem.

Box Tops.

I don’t exactly know how it happened. Or why NOW. I’ve been around Box Tops for the last 20 years. And at some point in each of my kids’ lives they’ve brought home the obligatory note from the teacher asking me to collect them for the school. And every year I’ve sent the two or three I happened to notice as I was pouring cereal in a bowl. And well…that was it.

Until two weeks ago.

Ethan came home from school and said (in between telling me he stepped in dog poop on the playground and asking if I would make him pizza rolls) that his teacher told the class about collecting Box Tops. As I plopped a dozen of the frozen rolls on a cookie sheet I said, “That’ll be fun. Let’s check out the pantry and see how many we can find!”

Instead of returning my enthusiasm he appeared bored, scratched his head, and asked, “How long til those are done?”

I was already in the pantry.

Finding that first Box Top was a high I can’t explain. I was surprised at the rush it gave me. Now I can equate it to finding a twenty dollar bill in the back pocket of your jeans.

Then there was the next one. And then the next one. And then HOLY SHIT OLD EL PASO TACO SHELLS OFFERS TWO BOX TOPS ON THE PACKAGE!

After scouring my pantry and fridge, I had collected seventeen Box Tops. So at ten cents a piece I had (BY MYSELF) made my kids’ school a buck seventy.

You’re Welcome, Northbrook Elementary.

I placed all the carefully cut-out Box Tops in a Ziploc baggie (which, by the way, participates in the Box Tops for Education campaign) and ran to show Ethan. “Look!” I shouted. “I found all these for you take to school tomorrow!”

“Are my pizza rolls ready yet?” He seemed less than amused. Also, in the madness of the whole, you know, thing, I kinda sorta totally forgot about the pizza rolls. Did you know if you leave pizza rolls in the oven for forty minutes they completely disintegrate? Seriously, there was nothing left on the baking sheet but ashes.

Anyway, the whole Box Top thing started to consume me. I woke up the next morning thinking about it. I wanted to feel what I’d felt the day before. I wanted to find the next high.

I don’t know how it happened but I found myself pulling into the grocery store parking lot after dropping off the kids at school, going up and down the aisles looking for products that offered Box Tops. I spent a hundred dollars on stuff I didn’t need–for two dollars in Box Tops.

I called my mom and told her all about the Box Tops thing. I listed at least ten brands for her to check for in her pantry, seven of which I was positive she had in there. I called her back twenty minutes later to see how many she’d found. I didn’t like her answer (zero–because she wasn’t home but at the physical therapist), so I called back after another twenty minutes (she still wasn’t home–how long does broken shoulder therapy take anyway?) and she hung up on me when I suggested she didn’t care about my kids’ education. Because CLEARLY.

I wanted to send out a mass email to everyone I knew. You know, something casual explaining that Ethan was doing this whole Box Tops thing for his school and how I would (I mean HE would) appreciate any support, yada yada yada. But the rational side of me thought that might come across a little cuckoo SO I JUST DROVE TO PEOPLE’S HOUSES TO LOOK FOR BOX TOPS MYSELF.

Poor Kristin. She probably wishes she’d never opened her front door. And I’m pretty sure she’s gonna move now and not send me her forwarding address.

I didn’t mean to get all crazy over this whole Box Tops thing. It just kinda happened.

Anyway…Kristin let me in. I had the kids with me. I sent them to play with her kids while I followed her to the kitchen. She offered me a glass of wine. Naturally I accepted. We chatted for a few minutes about nothing in particular…and then…I brought it up.

“So. Do your kids collect Box Tops for their school?”

“Nah. We used to a long time ago, but not anymore.”

And then as if taken over by a deranged crack addict, I leaped out of my chair and ran to her refrigerator. “You don’t mind if I take a look at what you got in here, do you?”

I give Kristin a lot of credit. She’s known me a long time. She knows the crazy from where I operate. She ain’t new. “Sure. What are you looking for? Are you hungry? Want me to make you a sandwich?”

“Hungry? No. I’m looking at a…what brands you buy…you know…for uh…HERE’S ONE!”

And I pulled out a box of Land o’ Lakes butter. There, right there on the end of the cardboard box, was a Box Top worth ten whole cents.

“Can I take this?” I asked, but was already tearing up the box.

“Of course!” She said as if this kind of thing happens all the time.

I couldn’t focus on anything but finding that next Box Top. Searching, searching, searching and then A-HA! Look! Nature Valley granola bars! Right here, LOOK!

Kristin poured herself another glass of wine and watched while I violated her entire pantry, ripping off tops of boxes, cutting out labels, even devouring the last Gogurt so I could have that stupid ten cent box top.

After all was said and done I had taken her for eleven Box Tops for Ethan’s school for which he couldn’t care less.

Seriously, I think I’ve really gone crazy this time.

Hi. I’m Shauna. And I’m a Box Tops for Education WHORE. My kids’ school is lucky to have me.

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