Monday, April 21, 2008

Blueberry Blunder

I'm not always 'on top' of things. I usually cannot find Sabra's lunchbox, which is why she uses a grocery bag. Sometimes I even hand her sandwich to the teacher and apologize.

But in the end, I don't fret about it too much. I do make sure they have food, clothes, diapers, etc. I may not be very organized in presentation, but I have a long-reaching memory.

My kids' teachers use folders to send communication, forms, and art crafts to me. These folders are ideally in the kids' backpacks. The backpacks are ideally in the trunk or at least somewhere in the car. Ideally my car runs not on gas but on negative thoughts, which would mean it would never ever run out of fuel.

Moira's folder is bright yellow and covered with a cartoon smiling bee. It mocks me.

It mocks me because I misplace it just often enough to be sent twenty-seven pages of ABC's at a time.

It has never truly bothered me before, despite Moira's teachers' raised eyebrows when I neglect to drop the folder into the appropriate bin each morning. So what if I get the week's worth of behaviour reports and crafts all at once? I don't actually need to see them every day, because Moira tells me about her school day.

Enter the huge problem that resulted in today's catastrophic blunder.

The folder, normally just an envelope in disguise, also has another function. The Secret Additional Extra-Special Folder Function is to hold the month's calendar of events. The calendar tells me which day is P.E. and if I need to remember to pack blue socks for Blue Socks and Blustery Snowball Day (Which is, of course, to learn about BS.) They have some really random holidays for the kids...

Anyways, I normally give the calendar a quick gander and commit it to memory. There really aren't that many things to remember, and Moira always hears from her teacher to "Remember those Blue Socks!"

Last week she was out of school because we had family in town, and also because her asthma was making her sound like she had Avian Bird Flu mixed with Whooping Smoker's Bronchitismonia Cough. She was happy to play with her family and celebrate her birthday, and very excited to get a few days off of school.

Apparently, last week contained the Golden Day on which the teachers affixed the Calendar of Knowledge to the Yellow Folder of Mocking Death.

Moira came back to school this week eager to see her friends and rub in their faces that she was now five years old. She also came home the last few days telling me that Pajama Day was soon approaching.

I forgot Pajama Day once. Once. It was terrible, and I have mostly blocked it from my memory. All I know is that when I hear the words 'Pajama Day' I get slightly nervous and feel like looking at the school calendar.

I made a mental note to find out when said Holy Holiday was to take place so as not to embarrass my child.

I forgot to look.

Yesterday, Moira's friend Canaan told us "Remember that tomorrow is Pajama Day!"

I asked Canaan if this is something her teacher told her, or if it was a special day she was declaring so that she didn't have to get up early and put her school clothes on. Canaan is a free spirit. My niece is a free spirit, as is my younger daughter.

Free spirits, if you are not one or are not acquainted with any, can at any time decide that 12:52 is Chocolate Minute, and if you are twenty-six, you are entitled to receive chocolate from anyone who is twice your age and owns a beagle.

Free spirits dress themselves in a pink tutu, cowboy boots, striped socks, alien headband, swimming goggles, and a motorcycle vest that unzippers to contain a fur lined hood.

I love Canaan, and Kendall, and Sabra for this very reason. They are fun, spontaneous, and creative. It also means that they make things up because...well, why not?

When Canaan affirmed that this pajama day information did in fact come from a real live breathing source, I decided that it indeed must be true.

The girls were very excited that they could pick out pajamas, put them on and slip into bed AND not have to get dressed in the morning.

Sabra wore a floaty princess gown and Moira picked out her monkey pajamas. They aren't necessarily her favorite, but she does really like them. Her favorite pajamas are of course not really appropriate for school, given that they are short enough to be hotpants.

Moira's friend Natalie recently gave Moira the monkey pajamas. The pants and shirt nightclothes have fun happy monkeys dancing on a sea of blueberry-colored background.
They are cute, they are girly, and they are long enough to not make Moira's dad nervous about sending her out in them. To complete the purple ensemble, she wore her blueberry crocks. She normally eschews this type of footwear, as it is not covered in bows or glitter. But for this day of comfort and silliness, she made a rare exception.

Off we went to school, girls happy for the fun day ahead and me happy because I had lunches packed (in lunchboxes!) and hair brushed and Pajama Day was going to be lovely.

The sun is finally making repeat appearances, and the breeze blows every few minutes to bring big boughs of yellow pollen to our red scratchy eyes.

The beauty, alas, was not to last.

When we arrived at the Pre-K door, we both noticed something amiss.

Standing frozen beside her backpack, Moira whispered. "Mom! It is NOT Pajama Day!"

I turned to sign her in for class, and then turned back to talk to her about the blunder.

Standing behind me where Moira once stood was a scarlet statue in blueberry monkey pajamas. I have never in my life seen a child blush. I don't know that I've ever seen an adult blush so deeply and so quickly.

"Are you ok?" I asked

She nodded, still frozen.

"Do you want me to get you some different clothes?"

Still red, still stiff, she nodded again.

"Are you going to be ok, Moira?"

"Mom! Stop talking about it!"

I said good-bye, promising to be back soon with some clothes. She was still standing in the hallway when I left.

Though Canaan's class was enjoying pajama day, Moira's was enjoying a regular Thursday.

I flew like a bat out of hell to Target. I was on a mission. For once I didn't get sidetracked by thoughts of meatloaf or hairspray. I needed clothes, size 5 and something to match those purple crocks!

Luckily, Target was a sea of purple. I filled my arms with all kinds of options until I finally decided upon a pretty but simple purple and brown sundress, purple and white-stitch linen bermuda shorts and a light purple tunic.

I wanted her to feel as good about herself as she had felt bad this morning. I wanted her to feel pretty and feminine and fun and just normal. And like any feeling female to another, I wanted her to have options.

I drove like...well, a bat back to hell I guess. While obeying all road laws and street signs, I flew with a sense of urgency to right the wrong I had given my poor little embarrassed daughter.

I peeked into her classroom. She was paying attention to the lesson amidst a see of seersucker capris and miniature twinsets in shades like ecru and opal.

Someone else went in to help her change, as parents aren't allowed in the classroom after school starts. I felt better, but still couldn't wait to get assurance from her face at the end of the day. I needed her to show me somehow that she didn't take it as hard as I thought she had.

She walked through the office door after school. Her dress looked so cute, and it fit perfectly. It matched those blueberry crocks, and I thought all was well.


Her little arms flung out around my waist and her face was again red, but this time with tears. She cries quite often, but never like this. Something was wrong. Just as you know that an infant is hungry or tired by the sound of his cry, I knew that she was hurt.

She didn't want to play at Canaan's house. She didn't want to help Gram make Abba's birthday cake. As she buried her face in my neck and wailed, she said she only wanted to go home. She wouldn't tell me why she was upset, if she was sad, or if this had anything to do with the monkeys that had graced and disgraced her this day.

I soothed her with pretty words and a fuzzy blanket and a movie.

And then I came to the computer to write. Because I feel like a horrible mother. What was at first a humorous story is now stuck forever in my brain as the moment that I Embarrassed and Let Down My Daughter.

It makes me feel so awful because the embarrassment, for whatever reason, is so deep.

It brought to mind all of the horrible occasions of similar shame: having to wear the green cargo outfit on picture day, having to give a Jewish girl cross earrings on her birthday, and using a Christmas gift bag for a summer birthday.

No, I didn't make up any of those examples. I actually had to live through them.

My friend told me that Moira will soon forget that this happened. And she probably will. But I won't.

The moral of this story is: Always check the yellow bumblebee folder for information regarding blue socks. Otherwise you'll be caught off guard by blueberry monkeys who want to steal your pride.

I am so proud that she shook it off long enough to get through school. She didn't let something like her clothes keep her from learning or sharing snack with that kid who calls her Nora because she cannot pronounce anything that isn't fried and covered in gravy.

I'm sure that there are many more times yet to come when she will look at me and what I did and turn red. But this is the first, and it feels rather bad.

I don't ever want to be the source of my child's hurt or embarrassment. I've always told myself that I would be better than my own parents. Yet here I am, crying over spilt blueberry monkeys.

The only solace I have been able to get is from knowing that no matter how bad the pajama thing is, I'll never send her to a Jewish girl's party with golden cross earrings.

I would buy a blueberry matzo ball.

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