Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lassie, Stay Home...

Kindergarten orientation did not go as smoothly as I'd anticipated.  At age five, it's not like I had the intellectual wherewithal to appreciate the unforeseen benefits of education.  I'm pretty sure I was just hoping to make a splash with a good first impression.  I've always enjoyed being liked.  Especially by teachers.  And all others.

On the morning of this preliminary meeting, I can't imagine what my preparation entailed.  I probably ate some sugary cereal and watched at least two hours of television.

Big Mare and I waited among the informal crowd to be introduced to Mrs. Hughes, a gentle tree of a woman with large hands and a kind face.  I stood right behind Joseph Pennini (above photo - top row, far left), a little boy with a penetrating stare.  Word from the front of the line was that we needed to know our date of birth.  Nice and easy.  We didn't even have to get the year right.  Just the month and day.  I checked these details with my mother to be on the safe side.

September 10th.  Of course, I knew that!  Nothing to worry about.
I repeated this information over and over in my head.

I grew increasingly nervous as we inched toward the table where these interviews were being conducted.  Mrs. Hughes looked like a smart lady.  Surely, she'd recognize September 10th as the undisputed best day for births.  It was pretty obvious, as far as I was concerned.  Still, I'd have to pour on the charm if I wanted to pull ahead as an early classroom favorite.

C'mon, Pennini.  Keep that spiky head of yours moving, I thought to myself with the agitation of an ill-tempered commuter stuck in traffic.  I eavesdropped on the brief exchange between Joey and the teacher, right at the moment where he told her that he was born on September 12th.

This revelation fried my brain.  I knew of four legitimate birthdays up until this point in my life - mine, Judy's and my parents.  None of their commemorative moments occurred anywhere near September, and I preferred it that way.
I was convinced he must be lying.  "That's just too close to mine.  It's impossible."

The immediate bane of my existence shook Mrs. Hughes' gigantic paw and stepped to the side.  It was obvious now that we would never marry.  And on the off-chance that we did, our union would be a miserable one.  I couldn't trust anything that came out of this kid's mouth.  I stood there dumbfounded, incapable of registering the key questions directed my way.

"So, you're Mary?" the gentlest woman in the world asked.
Is she talking to me?  I wondered.
"I bet you know when your birthday is," she coaxed.
"September 12th," I replied.
"Oh, dear.  It says here, September 10th.  Perhaps it's a mistake."
Shit, Shit, Shit, I thought.  Think fast, Mary.
"They must have got it wrong," I insisted.  I was born the same day as him.  I pointed to my future ex-husband.
"Okay.  We'll be certain to get to the bottom of this."  Mrs. Hughes glanced toward the docile mob, looking for my mother's face.  "Why don't you go and have a seat at the orange table."

Good Lord, this could not be going any worse.  I absolutely hated orange.  It was clear that no crayons could stand being around this unlikeable color.  Except for black, and he only put up with orange for Halloween's sake.  I played stupid and sat at the red table.

When Big Mare got me outside on the sidewalk, she was all over me.
"What just happened in there, Clown-o?"
"I can't explain it, Mom.  I think I may have amnesia."
"You're full of shit.  That only happens to dogs."  She grabbed my arm and yanked me across Castle Hill Avenue.

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