Friday, February 25, 2011

the happy boys and the grumpy witch: a cautionary tale

Usually I'm like a kid myself when I'm with kids.  Even when I'm in full-blown Teacher Kerri or Auntie Kerri mode, I joke around a lot and can act just as immature as they can.  But yesterday I was a bit irritable all day - who knows the reason, take your pick - I don't need one - and the weather seemed to fit my mood: misty/drizzly, just above freezing, not sure if it wanted to snow, sleet, or do nothing.  Traffic on the way to my student's, N., and his brother's, L., school didn't help, and by the time I arrived to pick them up I was...not mad, not super-crabby, but like the day, just spitting some grouchiness.  Pissy.  Grr.

I was at the end of the row of cars filing past the school to pick up kids, and as I slowly pulled closer to the school I looked for the boys but couldn't see them.  Grr.  Soon I was at the front of the school and there were no more children outside, and the teachers turned around and went back inside.  Grr-wait, what?  I waited and watched for a couple of minutes, then parked and called the boys' mom, my eyes glued to the school entrance.  The boys' dad answered.  "I'm at the school," I said, "and I don't see the boys.  Did you guys pick them up?"  Every parent's dream phone call, just after the one in the middle of the night.  Fortunately, this family is very laid-back.  "No...," Dad said.  "Sometimes it takes them several minutes to get outside."  "Okay," I said, "I'll go check inside."  At this point three possibilities have occurred to me:  1- Dad is clueless.  2- the boys have been abducted.  3- the boys are still inside.  N. and L. are too old and too smart to just get in a car with a stranger, so I tossed possibility #2 from my mind as I walked toward the entrance.  Grr.  A few seconds later, two very familiar blond heads bobbed out the school door.  I smiled at them, but lifted my arms up and out to the side in the classic "What the heck?!" gesture.  They smiled back and said, "We were waiting inside!"  Really?  No kidding.  "My teacher didn't want us to get wet," N. said.  "Actually," he continued, "she doesn't like to get wet."  Uh huh.  Well I love it; be sure to thank her.  I called their dad and said I'd found them, then I said the boys were turkeys and made arrangements to meet Mom and Dad to drop the boys off.  N. and his family live 15-ish miles from the school; on tutoring days I usually pick up the boys, drive them home, tutor N., then they feed me.  I also get some quality moments with their dogs.  It's been a great arrangement.  But it was getting colder outside and the weather looked like it had decided to snow after all, why should the northeastern part of the country have all the fun, and the boys' parents were only a few miles away at that time, and I had decided I didn't want to make the slick drive home in the dark later.  So Dad and I arranged to meet at a grocery store a few miles away.

I wasn't familiar with the store's location, so I asked N's dad what intersection it was on.  Oh.  Turns out I've driven past it every time I've taken the boys home.  I knew that.  The road I take to N's house, the one the store is on, is a highway that runs through the southern end of town, with a few stoplights and a 55 mph speed limit in this particular area.  We began tootling down the road when I noticed the "door open" light was on.  I looked back at N's door and realized it sounded windier than usual back there.  "I don't think my door's shut all the way," N. said.  "Me neither," I said, and pulled over so we could stop and he could shut the door.  That didn't bother me, but we missed a green light as a result, so it goes with the story.  We eventually resumed our trip, the boys talking and laughing with each other and N. humming a pop song he got stuck in my head the last time I saw him.  I joking yelled, "AAUUGGGHHH!!!  You are no longer allowed to sing that song!!!" and N. laughed and sang louder.  As N. sang, the boys worked on making rabbit shadow puppets with their hands, L. telling N. how to do it "right" and both of them discussing the pros and cons of bucked-tooth bunnies. 

I have never heard these boys fight with each other.  In fact, their whole family is like some kind of happy, mutant, laid-back pack of hyenas.  My niece, Maddie, is like that, too; so was Chester.  It can be really irritating.

As we approached the store's intersection, I asked the boys if the store was on the north or south side of the highway.  "I duh know," they said.  I asked if it was on the left or right.  "I duh know."  I took a chance on it being north, since most of the state is north of this highway, and as I was slowing down in the left-turn lane I glanced right (south) and saw that I was wrong.  The store was on the south side.  L. saw it, too.  "It's over there!" he said.  "Why are you turning left?"  "Thanks a lot!" I said.  As we began to move forward and turn, my phone rang.  I tossed it into the back seat and told N. to tell his mother that I am a nincompoop, they (N. and L.) are nincompoops, and we are across the street and on our way.  N's mom told N. where they were in the store's big parking lot.  While N. was on the phone I turned into a parking lot which I assumed had an exit on the other side where I could pull back onto the highway in the other direction.  I drove through the parking lot and couldn't find the exit.  "AAUUGGHH!!!  THIS LOT HAS NO EXIT!!!"  I yelled in my half-joking, half-I've-had-it voice.  "Aauugghh!!!" L. yelled in sympathy.  N. laughed and told his mom.  Then L. and I found the exit at the same time.  "There it is!" he said. I pulled onto the highway and into that left-turn lane, and N. hung up.  As I slowed the car for our 2nd red light at that intersection, L. said, "Kerri, try to make a rabbit."  Oooh, bunnies!  I was pleasantly distracted for a moment, L. coaching me on hand formation.  Then the light turned green and I resumed driving.  L. kept telling me to make bunnies.  "I'm a little busy right now!" I said.  The boys laughed.  I asked N, "Which door did your mom say they'd be at?"
"I duh know."
"Which car are they driving?"
"I duh know."
"Are they closer to the store's entrance or to where we're pulling in?"
"I duh know."
"Are you kidding me?!  You just talked to her!"
"I don't remember..."

Fortunately, I'd heard enough of Mom's call to get us within frantic waving distance.  Correct that - laid-back "Hey dude" throw-up-a-hand distance.  I parked the car, got out with the boys, and told the parents they were welcome to take back their children.  (I also remembered to get N's cello out of the trunk - bonus points for me.)  "Were they a pain?" Dad smiled and asked.  "Nah, I'm just kidding," I said and hugged Nick.  L. said happily, "Kerri was late!"
"I was not!" I shot back.  "I was there all the time!  I was just at the end of the line!"
L. and N. both commented, "She went the wrong way!"
"You didn't know where the store was, either!"
"She got lost in the parking lot!"
"The exit wasn't where it was supposed to be!"
The boys went on, the whole hyena pack grinning and/or laughing, until I was compelled to say, "'Where's the store?'  'I duh know.'  'Which door?'  'I duh know.'  'Where are they in the lot?'  'I duh knoooooooowwwwwwww,' I said as I mimicked the boys, all vestiges of mature adulthood melting away.

Eventually we said goodbye and I drove home, that dang pop song looping through my head.  Maybe next time I pick up the boys I'll wear a goofy wig and stand on my car and shout N's name as loud as I can until they're in the car.

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