First of all, let me make this clear. It was only after Nancy Offenberg asked for the fourth time about whether snacks would be served before or after nap time that I budged even an inch from my chair. I was anchored to it, my knees in my chin, quietly minding my business all the time. I stayed still while Anuj and Lakshmi Apardalla grilled Miss Walker about peanut-allergy precautions, while Fred Zifkin went into his diatribe comparing the Piaget method of numeric inclusion to the vagaries of Chicago and TERC math, while the assistant teacher Kwanjali spilled the grape juice on Mark Kupferberg’s Hermes tie.
You have to admit, I hardly batted an eyelid when Jane and Jenny Powell/Wu demanded an explanation for the exclusion of Native American solar holidays from the academic calendar.
OK, I did sneak a gimlet on the way up from the office, but, surely, even the most hard-hearted among you will excuse me when I tell you this was my third kindergarten meet-the-teacher night in ten years. I’m not a fool: would I undergo a root canal without anesthesia? Would you?
Maybe jumping over the desk was a bit much. But look at it from my point of view—I didn’t really jump over it. I wouldn’t really call stepping over a two foot high desk jumping over it. They are so tiny. And all the other parents were starting to get up anyway, reaching for their checkbooks as the class parents were launching into their spiel on “give as much as you can, but don’t feel any compunction to give if you don’t want to,” Margot Shew crossing her fingers as she promised “all donations would be kept in strict confidence.” Like hell.
Anyhow, it was pretty apparent, to me at least, that after I stepped over the desk, and the way everyone was staring, that I had to get out of the room, and I needed a sensible reason why. Thus my sheepish pointing to my groin. I was just trying to inform the class, without interrupting the PTA treasurer, that I had to use the boys room.
And how was I to know that just as I got through the maw and into the hall Miss Walker would be standing there, little droplets of sweat sparkling like diamond dust on her full lips. And her glasses! (Only Dr. Levine knows what horn-rim glasses on a fresh-faced young woman can do to me. It’s not anything I can do anything about; in fact, we’re working on my indulging my inner urges more.)
But when Miss Walker—when Judy—turned to me and said something about regretting giving up smoking, well, I was, as you know, at that time mired in trying to give up myself but I did just happen to have a fresh pack and so, just to be nice, a nice, helpful parent (because Lord knows a happy teacher is a productive teacher for my little Emily), it was really because I was thinking only about Emily that Judy and I went out to the darkened playground.
Very well, I’ll admit it, I coaxed her up to the top of the jungle gym. But it was warm out, I didn’t want anybody fainting or anything. I helped her climb to the top, sure I did, but, you know, it can be dangerous, climbing those little metal rungs with high heels on. And anyway, there was a very good reason I climbed up there with her, I was very interested in what she was saying about the new recess activities and I wanted her to point out to me all the various areas of the playground from that high vantage point, so I could fill in the mental picture, so to speak.
Oh, her blouse. Well, she said she got stung by something, you know how those Indian summer nights can bring out the mosquitoes, and with all this concern about West Nile and everything, and me being somewhat familiar with the medical profession, at least the media part of it, I felt it was my job to check out the bite. I didn’t know it would mean she would have to take off so much of her clothing, but those mosquitoes are cagey beasts.
I’m sure she’ll tell you she thinks I may have gotten bitten too. It was all completely innocent, I assure you.
You don’t think any of this is going to go on Emily’s permanent record? You know we so have our hearts set on Yale for her. There’s a good explanation for it all. Really.