Friday, June 4, 2010

Content, for a Moment

This morning, the Matron will undertake her directorial debut.

She has the complex role of "book club" leader in Merrick's classroom.

Matron: "Merrick! Do you want to be in the book club? We're going to read SUPER fun books. There are even stories about knives!"

Merrick: "I hate weading."

Okay then. Nonetheless, the Matron perservered in her role as parent volunteer for the Junior Great Book Series. Unfortunately, one of the children suggested turning a story from the book into a play: The Magic Listening Cap. The rest of the book club children were beside themselves -- a play! a play! a play!

So the Matron, in her first attempt at script writing, adapted the story into a play. Printed scripts. Found costumes. Baked snacks for the exhausted actors. Bought props. Rehearsed. Sent notes to parents about today's 10 am performance. Solicited other classrooms as audience.

All by herself.

Last night, she sawed branches from pine and oak trees for the two boys playing trees. She packed up duct tape, string and scissors to secure said branches. There are tangerines, rice cakes, a kimino and four black feathers in a bag, ready for transport to the school. Add that to the four boxes of other props all ready to go.

The pay-off? Multitudes.

Two days ago, Merrick announced that he wanted to join the book club.

Merrick: "I would like to be in the play, Mama."

Merrick's Teacher: "Mary, I haven't yet told you. First-graders recently took a reading aptitude test. Merrick is now reading at second grade level. He's made leaps and bounds."

Merrick: "I can read the scwipt! I can be the shop-keeper and cawpentew!"

Yesterday, on the way home from school, this transpired.

Merrick: "Mom? Why does that building say 'Holiday Inn?' Did you see that big sign that says 'Casino?' What's a casino? And we just passed another sign that with the words 'federal bank.' What does 'federal' mean?"

She nearly stopped the car to sob with relief and joy.

So now Merrick is in the 'book club' and has two non-speaking parts in today's play. Parents will show up with video cameras. It will be a minimalist and rocky event. The Matron is wearing a cute dress and her favorite earrings, for confidence.

But the other pay-off?

Every day this week, when the Matron has come for rehearsals, the 9 children in the play rush to greet her. These are seven and eight year olds. They hug her. A few kiss her hands. One brought her flowers yesterday and another, an old pastry his younger brother rejected. She has three drawings from the group and one clay ring.

"We love the book club!"

Today, she will oversee the most rackle-tackle, ragamuffin play in the history of the world, complete with wigs and bad costumes. Then Scarlett has her sixth grade graduation. Grandma Mary will be there, but that's a whole different blog post.

And Merrick can read.

All is well in the world.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010


The Matron was once an enthusiastic and reliable school volunteer. Well, enthusiastic might be an overstatement, but reliable? Certainly.

Then the recession hit. Being married to a realtor and all, she suddenly required gainful employment, which she secured. As she established her career, she disengaged from the school volunteer circuit to focus on keeping the family finances afloat.

But now things are better. The Matron, it turns out, is a very fine employee. She even likes her job! A lot. Really, really a lot and maybe she should have been working sooner . . . which is another story.

So after two years of not volunteering at the elementary school (aside from tiny adorable classroom activities), the Matron realized she was ready for a larger role. Then the call went out: the tried and true President of the Parent Teacher Association (PTO) -- a parent non-profit organization that raises over $30,000 a year for the school -- was quitting.

Emergency News Bulletin: Inner-city school in desperate need of highly efficient organizer and fundraiser, someone who can diplomatically deal with both the sane and dysfunctional.

The Matron signed up. The PTO 'election' is Monday, but mostly people are bowing at her feet in gratitude.

And now she knows why.

She was all groovy with the decision to lead until she learned that two mothers heavily involved were recently hospitalized for mental health issues, which they claimed to stem from the PTO itself. This gave her pause. Next, she learned that an altercation between two mothers (different ones) nearly came to blows a couple of weeks ago.

There's one set of parents not talking to the other and some considering litigation. Hurt feelings and, well -- did she mention dysfunction?

Cookie and wrapping paper wars are in her future.

And here she thought teaching at a community college was dramatic.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How Much Fun She's Having

Let’s just say you’re in the kitchen, slicing tomatoes, feta and basil. Life is fine. It’s Memorial Day. Everyone is expansive. There are brats to barbeque later, a cold beer on the counter and the children aren’t fighting.

This was the Matronly mood on Monday afternoon; she was contentedly cutting crisp fresh food for an evening get together when, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a relatively large man –large as in muscular and tall --- ride his bike up her driveway and into the garage. He also had a shaved head, which did indeed add to the particular aura.

So there’s someone in the garage. Your husband is at the dog park with Satan’s Familiar, who really doesn’t deserve such a treat, but that’s another story. What do you do?

Later, everyone she knows will tell the Matron that you lock the front door and call the police.

Police Officer to the Matron: “Really, next time you see someone break into your garage or house, don’t go and have a conversation.”

But indeed, yours truly walked into the garage for a chat.

Matron: “Uh, what are you doing?”
Big Strong Strange Man: “Just looking through your stuff. I’m into skateboards.”

He managed to pause while opening drawers.

Matron: “It’s better to ring the front door bell and go from there. I think you should leave now.”

Big Strong Strange Man: “Okay – sorry to bother you.”

Now, the Matron was walking away from this scene, completely willing to let it all go. But as she was heading back into the kitchen – the feta, basil, tomatoes—she couldn’t help but notice that the man who left her garage went directly into a neighbor’s open garage, too.

A wee bit of suspicion crept into her liberal bleeding heart.

Police! She called.

Within 15 minutes, the Matron was in the back of a squad car, much to Merrick’s eternal delight, on her way to identify the suspect. She was in the back because of tinted windows, so the person in custody wouldn’t be able to see her.

Hmmm. . . . . .15 minutes ago someone kicks you out of the garage and now you’re under arrest? Guess who made that happen? She thought the whole intrigue element untoward, but there was so much genuine enthusiasm on the part of the police officers that she decided not to be the cultural critic in this situation. Plus, once you’re in the back of a police car, you can’t open the door.

The short end of the story is that the guy in the garage has ‘an extensive criminal history’ and is currently on probation. He’s been crime free for 10 months, and perhaps not coincidentally, he has a 10 month old daughter. The Matron knows all this because the police did a good job and followed up.

Since Big Strong Strange Man didn’t steal anything, he’s out tonight (Matron is typing on Tuesday evening) and no charges are pending. But he did spend Monday night in jail.

He claims he thought there was a garage sale. Which is why he was rifling through drawers and there was no sign in the front yard.

Your dear Matron will spend another night worrying about revenge. The alarm system will be reactivated on Thursday and John is sleeping with a brick and baseball bat by the bed.

Still, she feels guilt. She sort of thought the police would have a conversation and not pummel someone for standing in a garage (or two).

What would you do?

Okay, before you answer that, she’ll tell you that the next time, she won’t saunter into confront a six foot muscular stranger. Or wait – maybe yes, she will. Okay, yes, that last thing will happen.