Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bed Head and Ratty Old Furry Clogs

It's been a strange day, one whose entire outcome has hinged on a single impulse. Early this morning, despite the fact I was still in my pajamas and wearing my furry clogs, I took the boys to school.

That, by itself, wouldn't have been memorable. Lots of moms like me drop their kids off in their pajamas and cozy clogs, all the while lecturing their kids never to leave the house wearing anything less than they could manage comfortably should they need to walk the five miles home in a thunderstorm. I know you've said it yourself. You know, those mornings when your boy puts on shorts and flip flops and it's only forty three degrees on the outside thermometer.  You may, like me, lecture your child about hypothermia half way to school before you get distracted by your next thought and the kids are grateful that you've interrupted yourself yet again.

"I'm going to work in the library before school on Mondays, so we'll have to leave ten minutes early those days," I said, planning to change the tack of the lecture to promptness. Both boys have been five minutes late since the beginning of school though they still have time to get into class on time after I drop them off.

"Why don't you go in today, Mom?" Nick asked. Nick was asking me to go in to school, to middle school, where he hangs out, to appear, in public, where his friends just might happen to see me. Wow. That is so sweet!

"You wouldn't be embarrassed by having me there?" I asked gesturing at my attire, baggy black shorts, a ratty long-sleeved Tshirt, an oversized fleece jacket, and my furry clogs. I love my furry clogs, but they aren't intended for spectators.

"No, you'd be standing behind the counter at the library anyway," Adrian chipped in. "Who would see?"

"You sure?" I asked.

"My hair isn't too bad?" I asked.

"Not too bad," Nick said. Yet, he'd hesitated for a half a millisecond and I could tell by this that it was probably smashed flat in the back and puffy on one side.

I swear. I did not hear them sniggering in the back seat. They sounded forthright and enthusiastic.

"Well, okay," I said, timidly. I am seldom timid.

And thus it began. I spent the first ten minutes in the library all by myself and when three kids finally came in to return a half a dozen books, I was safely ensconced behind the counter. Even the flat spot in my hair was safely hidden behind me.

'Wow, this really was worth coming in for,' I thought to myself when the fourth kid came in and asked if he could use the computer for his homework. Then, because the bell rang and the last student ran out, I decided to make myself useful for just a few minutes more by putting the books back onto the shelves. As I usually do, I got engrossed in rearranging the misplaced books and didn't notice the next person to come into the library.

It was the Chair of the PTSA. She wore a casual grey skirt, a lighter gray blouse that could have been silk, and a stunning red sweater. Cashmere, maybe? Her shoes were black ballet flats.

And I stood there, deer in the headlights, in my pajamas, bed head, and furry clogs.

She walked right over to me. She's nice. She really is. I tried to seem nonchalant while she chatted about her upcoming meeting. I helped her put tablecloths on the table while we chatted. I tried to stay on the opposite side of the table, hoping she wouldn't see my lumpy legs, the back of my head, and my ratty, furry clogs.

"I've got to get out of here before that starts," I said. "I only intended to be here for twenty minutes this morning."

She smiled.

"It's so great that you're here," she said. "It helps just to have someone to bounce my ideas off while I try to get organized." We put muffins and croissants on a platter.

"I should make a sign-up sheet for the volunteers," she said. I scurried back behind the library counter and made up a sign-up sheet on the computer using Word. I was behind the counter again.

"That is perfect," she said. "Could you make one with two columns for the Music Boosters? You know you're totally saving me here," she said, smiling again. I know that the sweetest, most charming people make the best PTSA leaders because I really wanted to help her after hearing her say that. For a moment, I forgot my wretched state of being until I smelled her gentle perfume wafting over my shoulder.

Then the head of the library volunteers walked in and the three of us began to discuss the art contest and how we could best help the parents of the new students get acclimated. She was wearing a pink polo shirt and a white cardigan with twill pants and a kicky pair of brown leather ankle boots. I checked in a couple more returned books and found some tape to put up the volunteer lists.

By the time I was done helping, people started filtering in. I tried to ignore what I was wearing and I went up to all of the people I knew, which was a little more than half of them. Were people going to notice that I was wearing my pajamas? It's not like they were pink with fluffy clouds and sheep on them. Could a smile be my camouflage?

No, it couldn't. It was totally the problem of the flat, slightly greasy hair and the ratty old furry clogs.

So, then, I started working it into the conversation, how I'd left the house never intending to be seen, and ended up here, at a PTSA meeting in my pajamas. People laughed politely. My friends laughed a little harder than they should have, considering my feelings, but I forgave them because they know me. They know I'm never perfect. They know the predicaments I get myself into.

Then, about when my helpfulness was winding down and I thought I could slip out, a line of children came through the door with the new music teacher. She deftly rounded everyone up and sat us down inside a circle of children. I could not escape now.

Then, the children began to sing. It was a Taylor Swift song, 'Everything Has Changed.' Their voices were pure and high. They smiled at us as they sang. I had known many of these kids for years and my eyes filled with tears at their sincerity and the beauty of their voices. My nose began to run and I didn't have a tissue, so I sniffed. Loudly.

Then I remembered my condition. I tried to hide my varicose veins under the table, but by then, a half a dozen kids and the teacher were focused on me and my emotional state as they sang. I was not going to be able to explain to them that I only intended to be in the library for twenty minutes before school started and I hadn't intentionally dressed this way.

And then, I noticed the principal, standing proudly behind me, on the same side of the table as my pasty-colored legs and my ratty old muddy furry clogs. He was wearing a crisp grey dress shirt, new blue jeans, bright white tennis shoes, and a shiny silver silk tie. He looked as though he'd just gotten a hair cut. He seemed to be staring at the back of my head as I turned around and his eyes, ever so briefly, flitted onto my muddy, old, ratty, furry clogs.

When he looked up to my face to say 'hello' he was smiling politely, but underneath it was something else. He didn't know me so well to laugh the way my friends had, but it was there, the way the corner of his mouth twitched just a bit and the corner of his eyes crinkled.

Too much of a gentleman to let it slip out, he said, "Good morning Mrs. Holloway. How are you today?"

"I'm just fine," I said, knowing there was no sense in trying to explain my condition, the runny nose, the bed head, the pajamas, my ratty old furry clogs, and all.

Thank you for listening, jb


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