Paper stars flutter to and fro in time to the rhythm of the air conditioning. A wall of black plastic sits beneath reams of masking tape and fluorescent post-it notes. It’s masquerading as the New York City skyline. This is Pinterest’s creation come to life. This is the middle school’s eight grade dance.
I set it up and now I wait for the children to arrive. I chaperoned this event for Sean when he was in eighth grade. At the time I sort of signed up illegally because only seventh grade parents chaperone the eighth grade “graduation” dance. Since we didn’t have him when he was in the seventh grade I never got the opportunity.
Of course after Sean’s umpteenth “Hey! That’s my mom!!” shout-out to friends I got caught. The teacher in charge gently but firmly chastised me for breaking with tradition. Oops.
At the time, getting caught as an illegal chaperone was my biggest embarrassment. It wasn’t until months later that I began to hear all of the things Sean had said about us around town. For that one night I felt confident enough as Sean’s mother to take the risk and stick it out at the dance.
Tonight was my chance to do it all over again. It was my second chance to follow the correct order of things. Carl is adopted: I’m officially his mom. I don’t have to explain what a foster parent is to the head teacher. Carl is in seventh grade so I officially qualify for chaperoning.
I even got here early enough that I helped the eighth-grade parents decorate. It wasn’t exactly clear to me who was qualified to decorate. It’s hard to keep up with the very specific roles around here!
Right now I’m checking over the streamers and refreshments. I’m admiring all of my handiwork when the head teacher comes in. It’s the same one from 5 years ago. The teacher looks flustered and out-of-breathe. She remarks that the ceremony is wrapping up too quickly and the kids will be here before the chaperones arrive.
I don’t think she recognizes me from 2014.
“It’s ok,” I say. “I’ll be here.”
Immediately I sense the change in her demeanor. She shakes her head and clucks in time to the air conditioner. “Oh no,” she shakes her head, “The eighth grade parents only do decorations. You can’t stay to chaperone. The seventh grade parents are the chaperones.”
I vaguely wonder what happens when someone parks in her favorite spot. How does she react if someone orders at the grocery deli without first taking the little paper ticket? Even when there’s no line at the deli? Life must be very frustrating.
“I’m a seventh-grade mom,” is my smooth reply, “I just showed up early to help.
She looks mildly bewildered that I would show up before my scheduled time. A wayward streamer sticks to her hair sprayed helmet as she rocks back on her heels to ponder me.
“Yes, that’s right!” She exclaims, “You ARE a seventh-grade parent. You belong to Carl!”
Well now that we’ve cleared that up…
I nod solemnly because I do belong to Carl. I am eternally proud to belong to him. I belong here.
This is my chance to get it right.
**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.