So yesterday was kindergarten registration and orientation at our local public elementary school. Short already goes to preschool at the same school, so there is no real “orienting” necessary for him, as he could most likely give comprehensive tours to prospective new students himself. Nevertheless, we show up with all the obligatory paperwork so Short can be registered properly, and I can show the world that I am a good parent and on top of things.
Did I mention that Tall was with us? No? Well, he was. This will be important later, you’ll see.
We sign in at the front office and get our official name tags. Since Queen Virgo is a former flight attendant, she has a slight Punctuality Complex. Okay, the thing starts at 1:45, and we're there at 1:10.
We're not the only ones there though; I notice an Asian family intently reading the posters outside the library. We sort of lounge around the main lobby area, trying to kill some time by flipping through back issues of Highlights magazine.
Now, let me describe the layout of the furniture in the lobby area. On the side of the lobby, a few random chairs and a small bench are scattered haphazardly about. The individual pieces are reminiscent of a hospital waiting area or maybe somewhere slightly more festive, like the DMV. The furniture has a retro Ikea-ish quality and is not very comfortable. Utilitarian might be the right word.
The primary seating area, located in the center of the lobby, contains a couch, two end tables, and two chairs, all clustered in a tight little arrangement. Some underpaid employee (a janitor?) must walk by a hundred times a day and inconspicously adjust that furniture because it is always squared off and perfectly placed.
Tall has been going to this school for almost two years. He knows his way around, and for some reason, he is not happy to be here with mommy and little brother at this moment. He would rather be home watching cartoons or kicking the soccer ball around the backyard. It is a Huge Inconvenience to be here with us now, and he lets us know that by refusing to sit with us, and sighing big sighs while he rolls his eyes.
“Tall, Tall, come sit with us!” I beckon cheerfully from the central couch. “Come over here!”
He becomes deaf. I am not sure if he is embarrassed of us or what the situation is, but he will not engage.
“Tall!” I feel like I am in 7th grade all over again, but instead of trying to get the attention of the cool 8th grader, I am trying to get the attention of my own 1st grade son.
Thinking that this might look bad to the principal or any random teachers that might be milling about (look bad as in: my son wants nothing to do with me, I must be a monster), I walk directly over to him and lean down to his level.
“Tall, Sweetie,” I whisper kindly, “will you please come sit with me and Short on the couch?”
“No,” he hisses.
I decide right then and there that the wisest course of action is to scoot a chair closer to him and join him instead of begging him to move to me. I glance around for the nearest chair, which happens to be one in the boxy seating area next to the little end table and right by the couch. I grab the chair and start to move it toward me.
Only it is a little bit stuck. Or more like bolted. To the table.
The chair is no longer attached to anything, and neither is the table. Apparently, I am stronger than I thought. The whole seating area collapses in an angry bang.
If Tall thought he was embarrassed before, he is really embarrassed now. Mommy just broke all the furniture.
This is all happening in slow motion, like a very bad Quentin Tarantino movie. I drop my purse and keys and all the important documents I had been holding for Short, and I scramble to figure out how to reattach the chair to the dangling table and the couch. I can feel people staring at me, but no one offers to help.
“Tall!” It is my turn to hiss. “Tall! Help me!” I urge.
His face says, “Who is this crazy lady, and why is she talking to me?”
I am struggling, not due to the weight of the table I am desperately trying to click into the couch, but just because of the sheer physics of it. It is a two-person job.
Did I mention the plant? Oh, I forgot? Well, there was a plant. That smashed to the floor and broke. Nice.
After one million thousand minutes, the Asian gentleman walks over (most likely at the prodding of his sympathetic wife) to offer assistance. What I want to say: Yeah, Buddy, it’s about time, what, is it fun for you to just stand over there and laugh at me while I flounder?
What I do say, “Yes, thank you, that would be great.”
Somehow, after three or four futile attempts, we manage to reattach the furniture. I am very much hoping that the public schools cannot afford video surveillance cameras and that this will not be played on a continuous loop in the faculty lounge or on YouTube for the next several weeks.
The furniture is now miraculously intact. The same cannot be said of the plant.
Like a guilty teen-ager informing his parents that he just crashed their brand new Lexus into the garage door, I hang my head and walk into the main office with the sad remnants of the disfigured plant and shattered base. In a move of unexpected solidarity, Short accompanies me. (He had stood still as a statue during most of the incident, wanting to help but not sure how.) I approach the office lady and say,
“I’m so sorry, I broke your plant.” She does not even acknowledge me or the plant. I am wondering if I am invisible. (Did I say it was like a bad movie?). I set the plant on the desk. As an afterthought, I turn and add,
“I was going to say he did it,” (pointing at Short) “because I thought that might be more believable. You know, because he’s only four years old.”
My son Short looks up at me, mortified: Did Mommy just throw me under the bus?
The rest of the day goes on without incident. We turn in our papers. We go to the plant store and buy a new plant, which we zip right back to the school to drop off.
I call one of my girlfriends, and recount my wretched tale to her. She seems to get a good laugh out of it.
And then, this morning, I get this little gem of an email from her:
“I wanted to tell you that you might want to keep a low profile (you know, close the blinds and wear sunglasses from now on!) since there were a bunch of police officers surveying the crime scene at the elementary school when I got there for registration. Seems they didn’t quite believe your story about it being “the kid’s” fault. Finger-printing dust was everywhere, you could hardly breathe! The good news is, I looked at the sketch some Asian man had helped them put together and it didn’t look like you AT ALL, but just be on the safe side, I would avoid the school for the next couple of years or so. It should all blow over by then, I am sure!! Sleep tight, MOV!! hahaha”
I might have to dye my hair. Or buy a wig. At least it will be cheaper than moving to a new school district.
(“Mom’s Our Vandal”)