camel soup

this is a task familiar to most children of immigrants; as the more natural speaker of english, i was often called upon to take phone messages, schedule appointments, relay inquiries. once, my mother asked me to listen to a particularly confounding voice message from a neighbor.

"hello, [mom], this is [neighbor]. i just dug up a stash of camel soup labels, and was wondering if your child wanted to bring it in to school.'

camel soup labels? ladles? camel-sue playbills? i didn't know what it meant, either. but, this was a neighbor we trusted, so my mother sent me down the street to ask.

the result was as baffling as the message; i returned with armloads of ancient gallon-sized ziploc bags stuffed with labels that had been painstakingly removed from cans, flattened, neatly stacked. 'give this to your teacher,' my neighbor had told me. i didn't understand why.

i brought them to school and gave them to my first grade teacher, who seemed both confused and suspicious that i had just shown up with hundreds of dollars worth of education credits from campbell's, especially because i didn't understand what they were or why they were important. i remember her walking me down to the principal's office and helping them get filed away for our class. this is the same teacher that once sent me to the principal's office because i wouldn't stop talking about negative numbers during our subtraction lesson, the same teacher that sent me to the principal's office for sneaking books from home to read because the class books were too boring, the same teacher that sent me to the principal's office for fighting after the bell for recess because one of my classmates was sitting on my chest to slam my face with fistfuls of sand.

there were a lot of rules that were never explained to me. i didn't understand what camel soup labels were until once, much later, when i was doing my own grocery shopping; i looked more closely at a box of pre-packaged food and saw that a school could be partially compensated for a student who consumed a box of cheerios.

04 February 2018 21:44

  Commons License this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. for more details, please see my license information.