Please Excuse Erik From His Column This Week

Erik is out of the office this week, celebrating his wedding anniversary. We know this because his wife sent us a note. So we're reprinting a column from 2006.

I wrote my first note to a teacher last week.

This may not seem like such a big deal to you, but for me, it was the end of a 33-year wait. Ever since I walked into kindergarten with a note from my mother, I dreamed of writing a note to my children's teachers.

My mother used to write my notes whenever I was sick or needed to be excused:

"Dear Mr. Jenkins, Please excuse Erik from gym class today. He is still suffering blurred vision and a ringing in his ears from the last time the class played dodgeball. I have spoken with little Melody's parents, and they apologized for her cheap shot. Imagine, hitting your own teammate in the back of the head! Please explain to the entire class how displeased I am, and ask them to remember that Erik is a sensitive boy whose feelings should be respected."

Needless to say, I tried forging my own notes after that.

"Deer Teechur, Please excyuse Erik from jim class today. He has newmo -- pnumo -- noomonya -- a cold. Also, that mean kid Craig should be paddled. From, Erik's mom."

My parents and teachers kept a suspicious eye on me, which created its own problems. High school was hard enough without also being a suspected forger.

So I put my note writing dreams on hold, waiting patiently until I became a parent and would craft a letter for my own child. Some kids dream of having children who star in the school play. Others hope their kids have the sports career they never had. I wanted a child who would occasionally have to be kept home from school or had a doctor's appointment.

The problem is we've spent the last four years homeschooling our oldest daughter. We've enjoyed the time spent with her, and don't regret a second of it. With the exception of not being able to write a note to the teacher.

I would never give permission to go on a field trip. I could never ask her to be excused from diagraming a sentence.

"You could write me a note," offered my wife.

"It's not the same as writing one to a real teacher," I whined.

"It could be a love note," hinted my wife, ignoring the 'real teacher' comment.

"But it's just not the same as writing a love note to a real teacher," I moaned, slumping on the couch, not realizing that's where I would spend the next three nights.

No matter how fun homeschooling was, there was a small emptiness in my soul. I was missing out on the sense of fulfillment public school parents enjoyed.

"Dear Mrs. Johnson, Susie was home sick yesterday with vomiting and explosive diarrhea. Please be on the lookout for any sudden recurrences."

But that all changed this past week. We had recently enrolled my daughter in the local elementary school, and my prayers were finally answered: She had to stay home one day because she was sick!

Oh, glorious day!

Someone had to write a note explaining her absence. Someone had to inform the authorities about why our child was potentially violating Indiana's strict educational laws. Someone had to step up to the plate and fulfill his lifelong dream.

"Do you want to write a note to her teacher, or should I?" asked my wife.

I raced to the notepad and nearly knocked over my three-year-old son. I had been waiting for this moment my entire life, and no tiny child was going to keep me from it.

I clutched my pen in my hand, determined that my first note was going to raise the bar for all future parents' notes.

"Dear Facilitator of Knowledge and Torchbearer of Truth, My eldest female child was recently stricken with a frightful malady that most grievously affected her sinuses and bodily temperature. She has been bedridden for the last two days, and as such, was unable to attend your fine institution of initiatory learning. Could you perchance convey any unconsummated academic assignments to our attention? I look forward to a favorable reply. Most sincerely, Erik Deckers."

I realized I would have to rethink the whole letter writing thing though, because I received this reply.

"Dear Mr. Deckers, What the heck are you talking about? And where was your daughter? If I get another pervy note like this, I'm calling the police. The school board and my attorney have already been alerted, and you are banned from school property for three months."

I wonder if a singing telegram would work better.

Photo credit: U.S. National Archives (Flickr, Public Domain)

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