It’s Okay, MommyPosted on April 9th, 2012 No comments
When the weather was nice, Fridays were always the busiest at the elementary school. Unlike the rest of the week where the children stood in a line outside the front entrance not-so-patiently waiting for parents to come and claim them, on Fridays the first graders finished out their day out on the grassy playground next to the soccer field. Willow always enjoyed finding her son engrossed in some game with his friends, darting across the playground. It was also the only time she got to talk to the other mothers and fathers; they congregated at the picnic benches while their children enjoyed the sunlight.
Talk probably was not the right word. More often than not, Willow would stand at the gate watching the children while she overheard the conversation taking place between the adults behind her. Her Jay was incredibly smart, a genius, and she took pleasure in listening to the other parents touting their children’s accomplishments, accomplishments that Jay had already surpassed a year or more prior. Willow would nod in agreement when everyone else did, offer a supportive comment now and again, enough to not seem aloof, but she rarely spoke of herself and Jay.
Today the conversation was leaning towards the planning of some kind of extracurricular get-together for the children over the weekend. The mom suggesting it opened her hands wide to include everyone at the table in the invitation; she even made a couple warm nods towards the other parents standing nearby, Willow included. “They have this amazing system of slides and tunnels and ball pits,” the mom was saying. “It is all supervised by trained staff, so we can sit at the coffee shop inside and get to know one another better.” Many of the adults nodded assent.
Willow liked the idea, but she had not heard of this commercial play place before now, and that meant it probably was not nearby; she said as much.
“Oh, it’s quite close,” the mom replied. “It’s right in Folsom, just about a half hour ride off the El Dorado Freeway.”
Willow felt disappointed inside, but did not let it show. “Well, in that case, I’ll see about making my way up there.” The mom took that for an affirmative and started selling the merits of the plan to another pair of mommies and daddies who seemed apprehensive of joining.
The teacher, Mrs. Canucci, blew the whistle, summoning the children into a queue on the side of the gate opposite Willow. Willow was surrounded by a much less orderly clustering of parents. Mrs. Canucci opened the gate and called each child’s name as each parent stepped forward. Willow observed as the ceremonial distribution of the students dissolved any social contact between the adults, each group of child and parent swiftly walking towards the parking lot. She chuckled at the thought of a soup kitchen handing out kids instead of soup.
Then she heard her child’s name: “Ranger Morris?” Jay perked up and galloped out the gate and into arms of his mother as she greeted him by his nickname. “Hello, Jay, did you have a great day in school? What was your score today?”
Jay answered by stopping right in the walkway to plop down his backpack and unzip it. “I got a 100 today!” he said excitedly, burrowing through the papers in his pack. “Here, I’ll show you—”
“No, dear, that’s okay, I believe you. Let’s move out of the way so the other kids can go home.” Jay blinked and looked around, seemingly surprised that he had picked that spot to stop. For a bright kid, Willow thought, it’s strange what gets past him. It’s as if he picks and chooses what merits being paid attention to. Willow took her son’s hand in hers and began to walk down the sidewalk in the opposite direction of the parking lot.
“So I heard the other kids talking,” Jay began, “about going to FunWorld this weekend.”
Willow sighed. “How’d you know it’s called FunWorld? We’ve never been there.”
“’Cause Brandon said that he went to a place like that once, and he said it was in Folsom. What else could it be?”
Of course, Willow thought. He was probably listening to us the whole time while he played. Nothing ever was spoken around him that he did not somehow file away.
“We’re not going, are we?” At this, Willow missed a step, and Jay took that to confirm his statement. “It’s okay, mommy,” he reassured her, “I won’t be sad. I know gas is expensive right now.”
Willow was not sure to be proud or surprised. He had hit the nail right on the head; with gas approaching five dollars a gallon—and her stuck with that blasted Bronco—a trip to Folsom and back would take up about a quarter tank, about ten to fifteen dollars easily. That was several gallons of milk, six or seven loaves of bread, or enough pasta to feed them both for a week or two. Jay had asked how money worked, so she shared with him her spending budget each week. She would usually start with thirty or forty dollars once the bills were paid; they would always go shopping together, Jay trotting alongside her with a solar-powered Casio keeping track of what they had bought so far.
It was Jay who mentioned that the gas for the Bronco was taking up a chunk of their budget, and it was Jay who suggested that they walk to school together. She smiled at his brilliance while still feeling guilty for needing to keep him away from a fun activity. There was no use hiding it from him now, though. “I’m sorry, Jay. We will find something else fun to do together, I promise.”
Jay skipped along beside her. “It’s okay, mommy.” Her heart broke just a little, that he had to say that so often. “We don’t have enough money in the budget.”
They walked and skipped in silence for a minute or two.
Then, Jay asked, “Mommy?”
“Do you think there’s enough in the budget for an ice cream cone? They’re only a dollar.”
Willow smiled. “I think we might be able to swing that. How much longer ‘til we get home?”
Jay looked at the plastic watch on his wrist. “We’ve been walking for 6 minutes, so that makes…” He stopped skipping and closed his eyes to do the math in his head. “…39 minutes of walking left.”
“Well, then, if you aren’t too tired when we get home, we’ll walk down to the parlor for a cone.” Jay sprang back into step with a victorious cry, encouraging Mommy to walk just a little faster.