In a town the size of ours, the annual “Take Your Parent To School Day” is more like a high school reunion. The cheapskates on the reunion planning committee think they’re pulling the wool over our eyes, but we know better. They don’t have to put in all those aggravating hours of planning and hosting a reunion, and we don’t have to put out the bucks for tickets and fancy party clothes.
It’d be safer to have the reunion.
I have to lay the blame for this year’s fiasco at the feet of my two teenagers. If they hadn’t tried so hard to hide the event from me, none of this would have happened. Instead, I would’ve stayed home and watched X-Files reruns. But no, I had to become “involved”.
It started when my friend Allison called to ask if I was going.
“Going? When? How come I haven’t heard about it yet?” I turned around, piercing my daughters with an icy look. They tried to slink out of the kitchen like the little weasels they were.
“Oh, come on, mom,” they groaned. “You don’t want to go. You’ll just be following us from class to class and that’s no fun."
“We had fun last year,” I countered. “It gives me a chance to meet all your teachers and friends.”
“Like you don’t already know them. Mom, you’ve babysat for half of them!!”
“Your teachers or friends?”
“You’re just going to embarrass us,” my oldest said. “It never fails.”
“Never mind,” my youngest chimed in. “You can go, okay? Just promise you won’t write about this.”
“Me?” I said, a hand clutching my chest, my voice trembling with just the right amount of shock and indignation for effect.
Talk about piercing, icy stares. If looks could kill . . .
It’s funny how you forget from year to year the smells and sounds that go along with school. From the moment the bell rang, I was crushed in a whirlwind of teenage bodies and carried along until I jumped out at the first class on my daughter’s schedule. I leaned against the wall, panting. I thought I’d spotted Allison’s hand sticking up in the crowd like a drowning sailor in a raging sea, but then she was gone.
I hoped I’d see her again.
In this lifetime.
First and second period went well. At first I thought we might have a wee problem, when my youngest daughter seemed to forget who I was when the teacher asked her to introduce me. However, she recovered and quickly mumbled, “This is my mom.”
Everyone said “Hi, mom!” and I just smiled and nodded. I hoped she’d noticed - I was trying to be cool. No embarrassing outbursts, remarks, or opinions. Okay, I told the young man in the back to quit slouching, that he’d ruin his posture.
I was only concerned.
However, by the time third period rolled around, I knew there was going to be trouble.
Rachel was there.
Good ol’ Rachel. Homecoming queen Rachel, head cheerleader Rachel, voted “Most Likely” in every category of the whole blamed yearbook Rachel. She was still gorgeous.
And Allison still hated her. I merely had an intense dislike thing going.
Don’t ask me what came over us. Maybe being back in high school unleashed all of our adolescent stupidity, I don’t know.
We were in the cafeteria, eating and talking, listening to Rachel brag about her Charles (the next MENSA candidate to hear her tell it); listening to Rachel moan about the rain that had spoiled her European vacation; listening to Rachel complain about the gardener - it really got to be a bit much. Especially for Allison, who couldn’t resist a very snide remark, loud enough for the whole table to hear. Rachel’s mouth thinned into a straight line, and she came back with a snotty remark of her own. Allison, emotional Italian one-generation removed that she is, spewed forth a string of insults, stood up, and flung her drink in Rachel’s face.
There was dead silence. Not one word could be heard in the whole place. Rachel’s red-lipsticked mouth guppied a few times, and then she let out a shriek. She picked up her dish of generic dyed-green applesauce (don’t ask . . .who can explain the mind-set of school cafeteria cooks?). She flung it at Allison, who promptly ducked.
Yours truly got a face-full. That was all it took. Someone yelled “Food fight!” and the battle was on.
After we were allowed to wash up, Allison, Rachel, and I was escorted to the principal’s office where we were told to wait.
Allison sat there, smacking her gum and blowing bubbles, her short legs swinging in the air. She’s the mother of two, and her feet still don’t reach the ground. That’s better than me. I’m the mother of two, and my rear won’t fit into those tiny school desk-chair combos anymore. I sat on a bench, and both my feet reached the ground. Even with my legs crossed.
Rachel turned her nose up and deliberately ignored us. She kept trying to get her hair into some semblance of order, but it wasn’t working. You can only do so much with lacquered hair that’s been soaked.
“You know,” I grumbled to Allison, “this is all your fault. You two have had this thing going since high school and you still haven’t put it aside.”
“What?” Allison frowned. “You’re saying this is all my fault?”
“Hello?” I said, rapping her on the head. “Isn’t that what I just said? Ever since high school when Bob took her to the homecoming dance instead of you, you’ve hated her. Admit it!! It doesn’t even matter that you were the one that snagged and married him -” I sat back. “Never mind, scratch that.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “And the bum still owes me three months of back child support.”
Principle Stanton was just like I remembered, only grayer with more wrinkles. He still had that dour expression on his face, and he said not a word as he ushered us into his office.
He sat at his desk with his hands clasped, eyeing us coldly as we fidgeted in our seats. “I never thought I’d have the privilege of seeing you in this office again,” he stated, making a veiled reference to the escapades Allison and I had shared in - the ones that had landed us in this very position more times than not. “I can’t say I’m happy to see you.”
Allison started to say something but I quickly interrupted her. “Look, we’ll be happy to pay for cleaning up the cafeteria . . .” Principal Stanton held up his hand for silence.
“I think it’s only suitable that you suffer the same punishment that I mete out to the students. We have to set an example, that no one is above the rules. Mr. Sanchez will provide you with mops, buckets, sponges and cleaning supplies.”
“You mean . . . clean it all up ourselves?” Rachel gasped.
“I think I’ve made that clear. If there is nothing else, I’ll bid you ladies good day. Don’t think me rude if I say that I hope never to see you again.” He stood up, and showed us the door.
As we stood there outside his office, I made the firm commitment to never attend one of these things again. In fact, I was going to head up a petition to have this day banned and never spoken of except in back alleys or behind outhouses.
The little wheels began clicking in my writer’s brain. A couple of phrases grabbed me, and I dug into my purse for my ever-present notebook and pen. I scribbled for several minutes, then looked up. Rachel and Allison stood with their arms crossed, eying me suspiciously.
“What can I say?” I grinned. “This is going to make a good story.”