My teenage son is cooler than Santa’s shorts. He’s above eating school lunch, wearing jeans that look brand new, and doing homework. He is exempt from science projects, term papers, and standardized tests. Right. And I’m going to his senior prom in a plaid thong and fringed halter top.
As a Mom, my major duties include creating fabulous meals out of leftover parmesan cheese, tomato soup, and ground beef, nagging people to finish every bit of that homework, yes every bit, and wearing out a trail between home and school carrying forgotten band instruments, lunchboxes, and school projects. The school secretary and I see so much of each other that I know all about her uncomfortable polyester allergy, the names of all her grandchildren, and what size stretchy pants she wears. (And if she’ll lie about that, she’ll lie about that fake tattoo peeking out of her Sag Harbor separates.)
Last year, Son Two created an elaborate poster project in order to rescue his grade from the bottom half of the alphabet, and snatch the low-slung seat of his jeans from the jaws of spending the summer studying flash cards with Mommy. So one morning after he mumbled his fond farewell and got out of the car and I saw that poster rolling innocently in the floorboard, I did what any mother with no make-up on and morning breath would do. I slammed the car into park, dug my feet into my fuzzy slippers, and set out after my son at a pace usually reserved for sprinting for the last Nintendo on the shelf at quarter past Christmas Eve. Poster under my arm and the theme from Chariots of Fire drumming in my head, I raced down the sidewalk like the three blind mice at a cat show.
The cafeteria is the before-school gathering place. It was almost time for the bell to ring, so there was already a burst of activity when I reached the side window and saw my son, slouching around a table with his comrades. I’m not sure whether it was the sight of me dressed partially in pajamas and partially in office attire that alarmed the crowd, or the sound of me beating on the window shrieking my son’s name. If I had thought about it beforehand, I would have taken the time to put on lipstick. Or a bra.
As one, the student body looked up and took in the sight of a crazed woman bouncing through her “Forgotten Project” dance outside the lunchroom window. To his credit, and out of a well-placed fear of summer school, Son Two acknowledged my existence and came to retrieve his poster.
On the way home, I reflected on the truth that experience comes at a cost. Poster Board: $1.50. Fuzzy slippers: $2.99. Teenager making a mad dash for the cafeteria door in a desperate attempt to save his pride and project at the same time: Priceless!