Sunday, November 28, 2010


Violet greeted me first thing Thursday with “Happy Valentime’s!” and for the hundredth time this week, I told her it was Thanksgiving. “What do you eat again?” Turkey. “I don’t yike . . . two-key!” (Think Clint Eastwood at his most disgusted.) Then don’t eat it. I’m sure you won’t starve at Grandma and Grandpa’s.

Daisy, my seven year old, is a gratitude natural. She faces the world with open arms, demonstrating an earnest appreciation for all creatures great and small. Violet, on the other hand, is not really a friend to the concept.

Tuesday was Violet’s Popcorn Pow-wow at preschool. It was something she was looking forward to because it was my coop shift, plus her sister didn’t have school this week. Daisy convulsed in envy when she learned she could not join us, and Violet flaunted her privileged status, until Tuesday morning when she approached me in the kitchen, “I don’t want to wear my pow-wow.” What’s your pow-wow? “I don’t want to!” OK, you don’t have to wear something weird if you don’t want to, but it sounds really cute, and I’m bringing my camera. “No!”

I have come to love my preschool shifts. We have the bomb teachers there right now. Sometimes, I feel like I have enrolled myself in preschool, and I mean that in the best possible way. The teachers know about our family reorganization in process, and they have been particularly generous with their warm hugs and gentle reassurances lately, like “You know exactly what to do.” (I love that simple piece of advice - it's the best possible thing you can say to someone who's going through a challenging time.) When we arrived to school on Tuesday, one teacher invited me to relax at the craft table in the kitchen and enjoy the fresh pot of coffee. I sat in one of the little plastic and metal chairs, getting quickly into my relaxation time before SOMEONE interrupted, “Mama, I want you to come pway with me.” But I’m relaxing in the kitchen. That’s what Teacher said to do. “But I want you to do a puzzle with me!” Oh, alright.

Recess was canceled due to rain, so the teachers killed time by encouraging the kids to share songs. There was some impressive embarrassment-free improvisation, at least until I joined in on the group singing and dancing. It’s not really something I do but ANYONE would feel comfortable at this school. Then I noticed my daughter curled up on the ground in a fetal position, blushing and begging me to stop. I thought I had a few good years left before I could inspire that level of embarrassment but whatever. I decided just to watch.

In the last half hour of the day, most of the parents joined the pow-wow. The kids sang songs while the popcorn popper went off in the center of the construction-paper “fire.” Pre-prepared bags of popcorn were then distributed to the excited kids. Violet immeditatlely sent her popcorn back because it wasn’t warm. Someone brought her a second bag.

Violet made it clear that the popcorn was not acceptable, and I warned her that she needed to deal. The kernels jumping out of the air popper from 1980 were just for effect. That wasn’t the answer I-want-it-warm Violet wanted to hear, which led to a self-directed time-out. She sat on the other side of the wall from the pow-wow, and it wasn’t long before she was sprawled face down on the lightly pee-scented carpet. I scanned the crowd to discover my kid was the only one not enjoying herself. Some kids were even taking turns sharing how grateful they were for the lukewarm popcorn and their mothers. All Violet had to say was “I hate this day.”

Violet managed to slip out the front door as I gathered our belongings at dismissal. I found her running laps on the lawn with a boy from her class who was adopted from Africa about six months ago. The kid is fascinating to me, partly because he seems to have adjusted remarkably well to a ton of changes in no time. He’s my little buddy, the only one who will boldly encroach on Violet’s lap space during story time. Their interactions have been mostly silent belligerent stares. But on this day, they shared the thrill of escaping the watchful eyes of their parents with giggles of pure joy. Seeing their coatless, happy selves with muddy knees running free on the wet grass is one of the moments I’m most grateful for this week. That and learning how easy it is to embarrass Violet in public (useful!).


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