Saturday, November 13, 2010

207. Alice

So you’re sitting there in this teeny tiny dollhouse chair and you’re nodding-nodding-nodding at what this pretty 23-year-old, with her long dark hair like a shampoo commercial (an extremely effective shampoo commercial, you would definitely buy whatever hair products she is selling), is saying about your son and not quite believing the words that are coming out of her mouth, words like “over-achiever” and “role model” and “quite popular”. Who, exactly, is she talking about? you wonder, because she certainly can’t be talking about your son, your first-grader who lately only talks bathroom humor at home.

But she is. She absent-mindedly smooths her green and pink tweed scarf while she’s going on and on about how your son is so polite and your son is so charming and your son is such a great artist and your son is a talented athlete, and all you can think is one thing and one thing only: does she perhaps have the son in question confused with someone else’s (perfect) son? Because none of this is actually ringing a bell with you.

You stare at her lovely porcelain face and her big chestnut eyes and you think how appropriate that these chairs are meant for little dolls, because she herself in fact is quite like a doll. And you wonder if she is actually the teacher or maybe she is a (slightly) older student who has wandered in to trick you and you are wondering when all the teachers suddenly got young and you suddenly got old.

You don’t feel old: no. You still feel 23 yourself actually, or maybe 24. The dyslexic mirror flips those numbers around and tells a different story: 42.

Big sigh. 42. That is how old teachers are supposed to be, not you, you think. When did you become that? That cruel manipulation of the 2 and the 4 (reversed): 42? How did that happen?

You remember back to being the tiny child, the student (no 2, only 4) and sitting in tiny chairs like these. Not even chairs: props. Was it only a movie set or a dream? Did it really happen to you? Were you 4 once?

Today you are the parent. The squeaky plastic chair feels alien to you now, like trying on the wrong size sweater at the Gap, oops, you didn’t realize you grabbed a men’s XXL……… this moment you feel like Alice in Wonderland, or Alice in Teacher Conference Land.

Do you have any questions for me? she is asking you politely while you zone out and stare at the children’s art work arranged haphazardly on the bulletin board behind her. Yes, yes, maybe one question, you think, but then you realize it is not appropriate to ask her if you can have that art work of a giant blue and green fish that some child (not your own) drew, even though you think it is spectacular and would very much like to hang it in your living room or have it printed on a beach tote bag or at the very least a t-shirt. No. She might frown on that.

Or she might laugh and think you were joking (which you were not, damn that fish is good, look out Picasso or Andy Warhol, you would pay $500 cash right now for that painting).  She catches you staring at the fish painting and she laughs a cute little 23-year-old giggle-laugh and adjusts her scarf and says were you looking at the fish painting? and you laugh too (though you are not really sure why you are both laughing) and this 23-year-old teacher says she is so embarrassed because, you know, she painted it as an example but it looks like something a 6-year-old would paint!

And then you smile back at her and tell her she is doing a great job with your son and how very happy you are that he is at this school and that he was lucky enough to get such an enthusiastic and wonderful teacher. And you mean it.

("Mama's Obsolescent Vonderland")


  1. Clicked over from the pioneerwoman. I loved your post, although my children are all grown I had a similar experience years ago and much like you during the conference was finding it hard to focus on what my child's teacher was saying. At the end I too felt this is a caring, compassionate person and I am so glad my child will be with this person for her first grade experience. :) joyce

  2. Have the same 24/42 feeling!!!
    Also, I can no longer tell how old anyone is...older people don't look so old and young people look like me (right???)!


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