This entry is out of order simply because I did my usual rabbit trail of starting on one topic and hopping over to another. It’s all because I didn’t catch up to Dad until nearly Thursday, due to our conflicting schedules, along with his need to get caught up on his sleep and type up his article and get it posted. Thursday morning he was on the couch working his way through stacked up correspondence, newspapers, and magazines when I made my appearance at 8:30 am. Here’s how it all played out:
“Why are you here?” he frowns at me. “Are you sick?” Why do my parents always think I’m sick if I happen to be home? Don’t they ever look at the calendar? Is a purple-inked “NO SCHOOL” not loud enough of a reminder?
I shake my head and continue to the kitchen. I toss over my shoulder, “Parent teacher conferences today. No school.” I let Dad work it out. “Where’s Mom?” I ask deciding that breakfast will be bleak without eggs, bread, cereal, or milk as options. Another look in the refrigerator and cupboards indicate a lot more than the basics are depleted.
“She went grocery shopping. She wanted to get it done early and then she and I planned on going out for lunch. Hey, since you have no school let’s all go to lunch.”
Before I can agree, Dad sits up, with an obvious brain-wave. “I know, let’s all go to your teacher conference and then go to lunch. Do you have to make an appointment?” He paws through his stack of mail, locates a tri-folded stapled offering and flaps it up and down, “Yeah, here it is.“ He scans it. “Yup, it says right here that we can just show up.“
I hoped that bit of correspondence would have gone unnoticed until next week. Most of the stuff from school does slip under the parental radar. Mom tends to ignore school mail, especially the newsletters and buries them in the stack of non-importants or ignorables. When Dad checks the mail, everything gets read. Going to Parent Teacher Conferences was not on my top ten list for today.
“Oh, there’s no need to go,” I assure Dad. “I’m doing okay in school.“ Dad doesn’t buy that.
“Getting to know your teachers is important. High school counts remember.“
Oh, great. I was hoping to avoid going and have been able to do so for the last couple of years. I know it‘s too late now. Once Dad is interested in something there is no real point in talking him out of it. I answer his question about what to expect.
“Umm, it’s set up like an open forum. You just go find a teacher and talk for about five minutes until all of them are covered. Conferences don’t actually start until 3:30. I guess teachers have work time or meetings in the day.”
Dad absorbs this as well. “Hmm, let’s see what your mom says. I think we could go to the conference and then go out to an early dinner instead. Do you have school tomorrow?” I shake my head. “How do they expect you guys to learn anything if you don’t go to school?” I shrug my shoulders.
When Mom arrives home laden with groceries I gladly help put them away. I like knowing what my options are when it comes to food choices. There is nothing like restocking the cupboards and refrigerator to get my appetite going. I’m not really a foodie, I just like to have menu choices. Inspired, I set aside the loaf of French bread, eggs and milk. “I’m making French toast,” I announce, reflecting my new interest in Simone’s home country. “Do you guys want some?
“Absolutely,” Dad cheers. “I survived on energy bars and coffee while on my trip. Let me know when it’s ready.”
Mom surprises me by kissing my cheek. “That would be lovely.” She blossoms into radiance when Dad returns from his writing trips. She hums and walks towards their bedroom. Great. If she’s in a good mood she’ll do anything Dad suggests.
After breakfast it’s decided we will all go to the PTCs and then get an early dinner and hit a movie. Not that I had planned anything more special than reading my new Jasper Fforde book and maybe actually start a real novel today. Then again, any excuse of not writing works for me.
I hole up in my room intent on reading only three chapters of my book and seriously consider starting a concrete paragraph of my novel, until 11 a.m, when Mom taps on my door. “Can you babysit Timmy? His mom wants to know. She forgot he didn’t have school today and had made an appointment to get her hair cut. She doesn’t want to reschedule and doesn’t want to take him. She’s paying the usual rate.”
I say sure. I really have nothing better to do. The occasional babysitting jobs I get help my dwindling cash flow. The only real money I get is birthday gift cash from Gran and Gramps. My parents don’t dole out allowance. They just slip me a five or ten now and then, depending on how well they are doing with their jobs.
I set aside my book and get ready. I like Timmy. He lives downstairs and just started school. His mom stays at home and does some kind of typing work for medical offices. Timmy’s dad works at the county courthouse. I think he’s a clerk in one of the city/county offices. I’ve babysat Timmy since we’ve lived here. He’s a cute kid. I wouldn’t have minded having him for a brother. The apartment building has one of those playgrounds within the complex and that’s how we met.
“Push me,” this little tow-headed boy yells at me. On my way to the dumpster, I looked around to see if he meant me. I thought he might be yelling to his mom. “Push me,” he yells again. I decide to humor him, but give him some trouble first.
“Hasn’t your mom taught you not to talk to strangers?” I tease. I easily talk to little kids. They have no hidden agenda.
“You’re not a stranger,” he states. He says it with what I would consider disdain. Can a five year old have disdain? “You’re the girl who lives upstairs. Your parents are writers. You go to high school, but you don’t drive a car yet. You don’t have a boyfriend. My mom says she has read your dad’s articles and he writes pretty good, but my dad doesn’t understand how a writer can make a living these days.”
That’s why someone said, “Children should be seen and not heard.” Adults totally underestimate how much little kids are listening.
“I guess you know a lot about me. Who are you?”
“I’m Timmy. I turned this,” he holds up five fingers. “on my last birthday. I don’t know how to swing yet. I still need a push. Push me.”
Hmmm, precocious kids only exist on television, I thought. “Maybe I will. What’s the magic word?”
“Daddy says there is no such thing as magic.”
“Okay. Then what is the word you use when you want your mom to get you to do something?”
I laugh. This kid has potential. “Please, is the word you should use.”
“Oh, that word. Mom says ‘Use your manners, Timmy’ when she wants me to use that word.”
Okay. That makes sense. “Use your manners, Timmy.”
He sighs. “Please, will you push me?”
And I did. I showed him how to pump his legs so he could keep himself going. About five minutes into this, a frazzled looking woman comes running down the sidewalk. “Timmy! I told you to wait for Mommy before coming to the playground.”
She opens the gate and catches her breath. “You’re the girl whose parents are the writers?”
I don’t know if this is an accusation or a question. I guess she says this to allay her fears that I am not going to harm her child. Would I still be here with him if I had evil intentions? She’s a little stressed around the edges so I try being polite to show not all teenage girls wear heavy black eyeliner and pants riding so low that bending down is next to impossible due to the current city ordinance of public decency.
We exchange introductions and I end up with a babysitting job. “I like her, Mom,” Timmy announced. I guess that sealed the deal. I don’t babysit Timmy often during the school year except for the occasional Friday night when his parents go out to dinner. Mostly I babysit in the summer when Timmy’s mom needs a break. I’ll take him to the city pool for a couple of hours.
Today it’s only for an hour and a half while his mom gets her haircut. “Thanks, for this last minute help. I still haven’t got this school on/no school thing figured out. Now that’s he’s in first grade I’m used to having this big span of time to myself. I guess I better enjoy my time while I can, huh?” she pats her growing belly.
“I guess so.” I’m not up to discussing pregnancy. “Any special instructions?”
“If you can get him to take a N-A-P, that would be great. He’s getting cranky and I want him in a good mood for when his dad gets home. It makes the evening go so much better. Don’t let him know you want to give him a you-know-what. Maybe read him some books and he’ll you know.”
“I don’t need a nap.”
Timmy’s mother rolls her eyes. “Good luck,” I think. This kid is going to rule the house before he’s eight. No telling what will happen when he’s fifteen.
Instead of getting into a power struggle about taking naps I distract Timmy.
“Hey, show me something you’ve done in school.“ Timmy’s mom smiles at me and sighs. She hugs him and he wiggles away, being intent on showing me his “story” that he made in class.
After praising his story, especially his choice of colors (“bears can too be green,“ Timmy insists) and not wanting to help him play with his Legos, I ask him to bring me five of his favorite books. I told him I have to do a report on books that little kids like to read and he would be helping me do my homework. He immediately dashes off to his room and returns with an armload of about ten books. Maybe they don’t teach counting in first grade. We read through them and we talk about why he likes certain books better than other ones. I yawn and tell him I’m tired.
“I’m tired too.“
“Yeah,“ Timmy nods. “I miss taking naps like we did in kindergarten. We don’t do that in first grade.”
“I miss naps too. I wish we could take them at school. I know a lot of teenagers would love to nap in the afternoon, but we would get in trouble with our teachers if we did.“
“Teenagers like to nap?
“Oh yeah. Teenagers love to nap. I wouldn’t mind taking a nap right now.”
Timmy got off the sofa and brought me this amazingly soft plush blanket, one of those velour throws with the lambs wool material on one side. He climbs up and snuggles next to me. Together we tuck it around us.
“We’re like two callerpillars in a cozy sack,“ he giggles.
“You mean we’re in our cocoon?“
Timmy nods. “If you want to nap, I’ll let you.“
“Hmm, maybe that’s not a good idea. Your mom might not like that I was sleeping when I’m supposed to be watching you.“
Timmy thinks about it. “What if we are both sleeping?“
“That might be okay.“
He leans against me and soon I sense his body relax and I glance down and see he’s gone to sleep. Kids do look like little angels when they sleep. Mrs. X would burn that cliché out of my writing, but I don’t know how else to describe that sweet innocence that radiates from their face. It’s comforting and peaceful. No worries, no cares. I close my eyes and lean back into the sofa. Timmy readjusts. Two cozy bugs in their cocoons.
Luckily I hear the click of the door and open my eyes when Timmy’s mom comes in the door. Happy to see him napping, she tiptoes across the living room to the kitchen. Just as I wonder how to extricate myself without waking him up he rouses like a little puppy, yawning and stretching.
“You’re back, Mommy!” Flinging off the blanket, he runs over and looks over the sacks of groceries. I don’t think Timmy’s mom wanted him to notice the gallon of chocolate swirl ice cream. She gives into him, like she usually does, and says he can have a little bit for being so good. He scores a treat and I get some spending money and a nap out of the deal. That part of the day was much more pleasant than the latter half.