I’ve noticed that a lot of my blog writing has taken the form of reflection. That’s probably appropriate because I’m a fairly reflective person. I realize that at a glance a blog reader might rightly wonder if Meredith M. Temple ever tells “just a story”–straight up, without meaning attached after the fact.
I assure you, I am all about settling in and telling a story. I relish it. If you know me, you know this all too well. Circle up, readers. It’s time for me to tell you “just a story.” This one is culled right from my own family.
At summer’s end in 2011 we were getting ready to send Zach to Kindergarten, and Ryan was ready to start 5th grade. Most families with school-aged kids had been school shopping, but we Temples had not. It’s not that we were in jeopardy of sending anyone to school naked. Ry was covered and we knew Zach would probably wear something from “the bag” anyway. We have a few family friends with older sons that periodically pass along their sons’ favorite outgrown clothes to Zach, and then we all enjoy the clothes’ second life on Zach. He’s the kid who is sort of everyone’s little bro.
Zach loves to dig through a bag of used clothing from our family friends. He always makes an olfactory connection to each former owner. He’ll sniff a hooded sweatshirt and yell with excitement, “Ohhh! This smells like Max’s! (or Cam’s, or…)” And he’s always right. It’s actually impeccable how he can name the home from which an item has come by smell alone. This is not a negative about the scent of anyone’s home. To the contrary, everything smells good in a way that causes me a bit of paranoia about my own home! I shudder to think what other people’s kids exclaim when they get hand-me-downs from our place.
This inheritance of clothing is awesome from the obvious standpoint of cost and convenience. On another level there are the pleasant memories of other people’s kids being small enough to wear those clothes themselves. Long after the clean, dryer-sheet fragrance that apparently characterizes everyone else’s home is overtaken by the unfortunate gassy, foot-odory, onions-and-garlic kind of smell that characterizes a day in the life of our home, we still associate the clothes with the original owner because we remember a friend’s son playing in them. Dreamy, right?
So there we were in 2011, about to send our babe off to kindergarten and thinking we could bypass shopping. Then we remembered he’d need shoes. I almost had to “mom up” and take him out myself, but I left town overnight for a funeral and Brad stepped in. This isn’t just a bail out for me. It really makes it more pleasant for everyone. I stink at it, and Brad makes it fun for the kids and enjoys it himself. I look for bargains, have no patience and manage to double the time spent while depleting the joy. Brad, on the other hand, skips the practical places and makes a pilgrimage to his and the boys’ Mecca, the mall anchor store known as Dick’s Sporting Goods.
I am aware that Brad does not save money with this choice, but if I’m not the one doing the shopping I wisely do not weigh in. Though Brad is not economical, he’s savvy about it in terms of making it palatable for the kids. He uses a plus-one buying plan where he buys everything they went to get, plus one unforeseen little purchase that is justifiable, but not necessary by my standards. On this fateful day Zach not only got a cool pair of sneaks, but a six-pack of super hero socks.
Fast forward to the first day of kindergarten.
Kindergarten is one of the biggest milestones for both parent and child. I would have given anything to know how it was going for him. Was he nervous? Did he find his way? Did he help anyone or receive help himself? On top of that, he is in a dual language immersion program. This meant he would not hear even one word of English from his teacher–only Spanish, which he does not speak. I had a lot of questions that I wanted to puke at him the minute I saw him. Alas, l did not ask any of them.
I had to be strategic because info gathering is a major cat and mouse game. Unlike their mom, Ryan and Zach are not about telling every detail. Or any detail whatsoever. I simply could not ask the questions I so badly wanted to ask. It would be a huge tactical error to show an interest in any particular part of school that I might ever want to know about, because if he knew I was interested he would never speak of it.
I also knew I had to respect that his head must’ve been spinning. Even if he wanted to, he would not be able to produce an insightful answer on command. I knew I shouldn’t ask any heavy questions or suggest that anything would have been overwhelming–like, whether he made any friends, or whether the teacher was nice, or whether it freaked him the f**k out that he didn’t understand one word spoken by Maestra. All those questions were there, but they remained in my brain.
In my second-greatest parenting move of all time, I asked, “HEY! How’d those shoes work out for you?” I got answers that said he did make it to recess and he ran fast.
Then we went to the living room and laid down on the floor and put our feet way high, above our heads. He took off the shoes for closer examination. I then noted how cool the Batman symbol was on the top of his sock. Big credit to Brad, of course. But also, credit to me! I was dying to know about the first day of kindergarten but instead I patiently let this conversation take the most natural and age-appropriate course. He took the sock off and, for whatever freakish reason, wadded it up and stuck it right up to his own nose and gave a deep inhale.
I was thinking how funny and gross that was. And I’ll admit it’s possible that I was still congratulating myself for not yet asking what he had done at school today. Then I heard him yell, “Ohhh! These socks smell like dicks!”
That’s what I heard because the apostrophe in Dick’s (Sporting Goods) is silent.
Until Zach’s first day of kindergarten I had never considered how unfortunate that was.