Monday, September 05, 2005

Playground Politics and Picnics

The first day of school is tomorrow and I’m ready. The children have exhausted every toy, game, puzzle and craft I have to offer and are starting to act like lions at the zoo, growling, pacing up and down and back and forth in their cages, making the zoo keeper (that would be me) rather nervous.

I can tell that they’ve used up all their creative energies based on the conversation I overheard between David and his buddy, Marc. The two boys were playing in the play house in our back yard while I was mowing and when I killed the motor to empty the bag I caught wind of their latest game through the open window.

Marc was trying to rope David into a high stakes game of Election. Taking control of the two-party process he ordered David to play the infamous John Kerry while he was the benevolent yet all powerful George W. Bush. Yes, he included the middle initial. Something along the lines of, “Now you get to be John Kerry and you’re going to make a speech and get lots of boos and things thrown at you and I’ll be George W. Bush and win.” Any question of where that family stands politically?

I hear the game’s the latest rage on Red state playgrounds throughout the country. If my kids don’t get back to school soon they’ll be playing Senate Confirmation Hearings or—for a real thrill—maybe a hot round of Appropriations Committee Meeting.

So with all the rampant boredom I was thrilled that Wednesday was to be the annual Back-to-School Picnic at Northern Lights Elementary where the new class lists are posted and the children get to meet their teachers. There are several traditions associated with this annual event, most notably that Andrew and the kids (all except Lillian) ride their bikes to the school, a distance of five miles. I am the pace car that rides alongside in between stop lights as well as the ambulance if the hills happen to get too big. We meet at the school for the picnic and drive home with the bikes on the bike rack. But not less important is the tradition of at least one of the children [ahem Grace] going home in tears because Kelly or Katie or Danielle isn’t in the same class.

However, this year I was in for a much-deserved surprise. After arriving at the school, dumping her bike and racing to the wall where the lists were posted Grace found she’ll have (squeal, clap and jump) Mrs. Too-Cool-For-Words-Frackman as a teacher—just the one she’d been hoping for—and once again Katie, her sometimes-best-friend, will be in the class. Who knows if Mrs. Frackman is actually the world’s coolest teacher, I don’t really care, but Grace thinks she is and strutted around the rest of the evening as old classmates asked her who her teacher was. Each time that Grace proudly announced that she was in Mrs. Frackman’s class, sometimes to that squeal-clasp-jump combo, it was as if she was announcing she’d been the first round draft pick, that she’d been chosen to be on the cool team. And it seemed the other kids agreed with her because after the picnic Grace informed me that everyone wants Mrs. Frackman. It doesn’t take much to make Grace’s life happy.

Spencer’s interest in the matter was a little different, after dumping his bike and racing to the Wall of Class Lists only to find his best friend Gabe was not in his class and that he had Mrs. Murray as his teacher he promptly ceased to care about any of it. Where are the hot dogs? Are there chips? Can I go and sit by Gabe?

David, one step lower on the apathy scale, failed to even check for his name on the class lists. He was instead intercepted by a former classmate, Oliver, with whom he talked for five minutes about all the important things: Star Wars, bikes, Legos, reunited as only long-lost kindergarteners can be when those four summer months seem eternal—

“What did you do this summer?”

“It was great, I played Election and got to be John Kerry!”

After socializing and catching up on old times David by-passed the lists with a straight line to the hot dogs and chips. Half way through the meal he looked up and said, “Mom—who’s my teacher?” For the record, it’s Mrs. Sims who is a new one for us. He doesn’t know her, doesn’t know who’s in his class and really doesn’t care, he’s just excited about getting a whole can of pop to himself, having new shoes and getting to bring a real lunch box to school.

Yup tomorrow’s the day and it’s going to be great.