So Tall’s first-grade class is doing a Dramatic Reading and all the parents are invited. Since I’m obsessed with punctuality, I show up about 10 minutes early. The other parents and I are waiting patiently in the school lobby when I see it out of the corner of my eye: a bouquet of flowers.
A random dad I’ve never met before is clutching a huge bouquet of mixed flowers, a symphony of red and purple and orange and pink, the likes of which I’ve never seen before (not even at my own wedding). He's smiling and nodding and chatting with some other parents and I notice he's laughing a little too loudly and gesturing a little too grandly during whatever story he's telling. His very own personal Mini-Dramatic Reading.
A school employee with a photo badge appears. Deep in my very soul, I'm praying that she is with the Floral Police and has been sent here to put an immediate ban on floral creations of any kind. Sadly, she has paste in her hair and a piece of construction paper stuck to her elbow (I'm guessing she’s a teacher). Paste-hair Lady has us line up single-file and then ushers us into the classroom. Flower Dad barely fits through the door due to the sheer girth of his floral extravaganza.
My friend Kalla, who is standing behind me in line, taps my shoulder persistently. I turn around to look at her and she motions to Flower Dad with a look of contempt on her face.
“Not. Cool.” she says under her breath. She shakes her head in a cocktail of disgust and disbelief. She continues in a stiff whisper, “I didn’t bring flowers for my daughter. She’s gonna see those roses and say ‘Mommy, where’s my gift?’ and I’m gonna be all, ‘Honey, me showing up is your gift. Look, I brought your sister. Happy Dramatic Reading Day! Love ya!’”
I know exactly what she means. Way to raise the bar, Flower Dad. What were you thinking? Flowers in first grade for a Dramatic Reading? We’re not even sitting in the auditorium, for goshsakes: we’re on tiny doll-sized chairs in the classroom.
Where can we possibly go from here? When my kid makes it to the Olympics for soccer or Kalla’s daughter is on Broadway performing ballet or Tina’s son is playing violin at the Sydney Opera House, what then? No mere bouquet of roses will do at that point. Should we just throw new cars up on the stage?
Flower Dad’s little angel is up in front of the class, about to do her best rendition of “Hickory Dickory Dock”. I have to admit, with her blond ringlets and missing teeth, she's absolutely adorable. Now she’s reading. Wow—she’s good. Hey, Disney Corporation, you should be sending a talent scout to Crazy Town Elementary right about now. I think your next Hannah Montana is in Classroom 6 talking about mice and clocks.
When Disney Child finishes, her dad claps wildly. The little girl in her brown and orange polka-dot dress and pink tights returns to her seat and her father gives her a quick hug then hands her the bouquet. The flowers are bigger than the tiny girl. She sneezes.
Tall is next. He’s reading a “math poem” and does a fantastic job. He never once mispronounces “prism” or “parallelogram”. When he’s finished, the audience claps politely and Tall walks over to sit with me. I pat his shoulder and say, “Sweetie, I’m proud of you.”
He looks at my empty hands. He leans in and says accusingly, “Mom, you don’t have any flowers for me?”
I smile a weak and panicked faux-smile. Is he going to cry? What should I say now: uh, Leighton’s mom didn’t bring her flowers either? or, your flowers are out in the car, let me run and get them?
Half a second later, he finishes his thought: “Thank you so much for not embarrassing me by bringing flowers.”
(“Mothers Of Violinists”)