“You have to do something about Clary,” Skeletor told me, brows furrowed. She’d just walked in, neglected to shut the door behind her, and was slapping her hair frantically into a ponytail. “You – just – have – to do something about him!” she continued between tugs on the rubber band. Once her hair was up she took several deep breaths to calm herself. I noticed her hands were shaking, and I looked down at Clary. He was watching her, biting his nails and looking worried.
“What’s wrong,” I said, drawing out the words and choosing the tone of voice I keep filed under “soothing.” She looked at me. “There will be no more naps for Clary at school.” I considered. He’s too little for no naps, you know, so I countered with “What makes you say that?” She shot him a stern look, he stopped fidgeting. “When we get home, he’s awake for several more hours. And not only is he awake, he expects to eat and play. I can’t stand it. If you don’t give him a nap then he’ll go home and fall asleep immediately. That is what I need: we go home, he goes to sleep. So no more naps at school, ok?”
“What are you talking about?” I countered before I could stop myself. “He can’t come from school so exhausted that he immediately falls asleep! He gets sleepy in the middle of the day and he needs a nap – all the children do. All children his age do, too.”
“Well that’s not what I need!” she was beginning to get flushed. “I’m going to have to talk to the director herself about this because it is simply unacceptable that I, a parent, make a request of you, a teacher, and you refuse to comply. That is just – I mean, it is just unacceptable.” She turned around, and strode out angrily though the still open door – this time slamming it shut behind her.
Clary was still chewing his nails. I dropped down quickly and hugged him. I felt his head resting on my shoulder, his little fingers pressing into my back with a worrisome amount of pressure. Gradually his breathing slowed. Someday, I thought, your parents will wonder why you have gone out into the world needing so much affection and approval, why, when you were raised with everything.
“Can you think of a better name for this trenchcoat?” Lizzy’s mom asked me. I don’t know if she is a good person or not, but she has a charming manner. Enough so not to feel degraded by providing words on demand. “A better word than coat?”
“No, I mean I think it’s tacky but my mom wants me to wear large florals so, well,” she belted it over her tiny waist, “here we are.” I looked at it carefully. “I honestly don’t think that it’s tacky,” I told her “I think it’s vibrant.” She smiled, widely, and looked down at herself. “It is vibrant, isn’t it?”
“Where are you going, Miss Lola?” Clary asked me when I stood up. “The bathroom, Clary,” I answered, wondering why it should interest him so much. Usually I get up, sit down, walk around – without incident. “Are you going to be gone a long time?”
“I hope not.”
“Can I watch you in the bathroom?” Amelia gasped. Should I give the ‘he’s a little kid and doesn’t mean anything by it speech’? I wondered. Nah, guess not.
“No, Clary, you can’t watch other people in the bathroom. It’s private time.”
“Are you gonna be back for lunch?” At this point I wanted to see what his mind was working at so intently. “Of course. Nobody takes that long in the bathroom.”
“Mommy does,” he said, looking down. “She goes in the bathroom with her phone and then I have to go to bed.”
I should probably not even say anything about this. Skeletor will only eat me alive and replenish her youth. Or something.
“Amelia is such a great teacher,” Mary told the director. “Her idea for the paper-bag costumes was really cute. I loved it! I would never have thought that it worked but it did! You can really tell the difference when you have a real teacher with a proper education and training, right?”
The director smiled. “Actually, that was Lola’s idea. Wasn’t it great though?” Mary looked at me. “You? You thought of that?” I nodded. “Yep, I just thought that – ”
“Well when you are young you have all kinds of crazy ideas and sometimes they work out.” She said, then turning to Carl announced “Mommy is so tired! I bet Carl is tired too and wants to go home right away. Let’s go home and see daddy!” She left with a quick wave.
“What was that?” asked the director. I sighed. “I don’t know.”
“I think she doesn’t like you.” I looked around. The room was empty and the stacks of paper fluttered in intervals from the ceiling fan. Maybe nobody does – not as a teacher.
It was not prominent on my mental list of ‘things to think about’ – not like money (there’s never enough! plays on loop) or travel or – well, you know. So when the doctor’s office called with the results of my blood work, I didn’t pick up the phone, I hadn’t been waiting beside it, I was singing ‘Over in the Meadow’ and had to be motioned over by the director –
I should start by saying that Shane’s child is exactly like him, mostly. He has an absent mother – she’s absent from the marriage too, actually, from a lot of things. She’s very present when she’s sniping about her husband’s personal failings to all and sundry on the playground, but as to being a mother . . . well, one day when we were were discussing feelings, specifically “sad”, and each child said what made him/her sad, he said “When Mommy goes into her room and locks the door and then Mommy goes out the window and I see her drive away in her car.”
Yes. Well. Of course he’s attached to his teachers, of course he’s attached to me. One morning I walked in and he ran to meet me, stopped just short of my face and sneezed on it. It was very wet, but I’m (of course) a grizzled old hand and wiped my face off with a tissue without complaint. He’s a pale, sensitive little child. He apologized for getting my face wet.
The results of my blood work? Mono. I was sent packing from work so quickly it made my head spin, admonished to keep my fluids up and remain in bed.
So now I’m in bed, alone with my proverbial thoughts.