Among the many issues I have with my mother is that she made me be in the school band.
I wasn't musically gifted, and the hand-me-down instrument thrust into my unwilling hands was my sister Donna's clarinet. Mom made each of her five daughters play in the band. Diana had the trumpet. Nancy got the trombone. Debbie: the flute. The boys somehow got a pass.
The clarinet's nickname is the licorice stick. I don't like licorice. And my first band instructor hated my older sister, Nancy, who was in high school and tormented him in class and out. I remember him as tall and thin and consistently impatient and cranky. I don't remember his name.
Nancy and a friend really didn't like him. They once tossed trash into his yard in the dead of night. I never knew why. I just remember thinking that he took out his anger for her out on me. It's possible I remember it wrong and that he was a fine instructor who maybe just didn't like ungifted musicians. All I know is I didn't really take to his fundamentals, and never fully embraced the instrument. Which is really funny if you consider some of my other talents.....
Anyway, I could have lived with the clarinet and maybe even advanced in the chair position, but as I aged band grew from a class within the school day to marching band and concerts, which required after hours practice.
That first instructor had been replaced by a team of others; Shakamak just didn't attract long-lasting music teachers. My annoyance with the actual music took a back seat to a new issue: nine times out of 10, my my mother would forget to pick me up from practice. I'd be that kid sprawled along the sidewalk waiting and waiting until finally the last adult standing would take pity on me and ask if I had a ride home.
I always swore that among my parenting missteps, failing to pick Ali up on time would not be among them.
So there I was, toiling like a demon at work today, Day 1 of third grade.
The day had not started well. I had a ton of work to do at the day job, and Alison had first woken at 4:44 a.m. After that, she had a nightmare and I was in her room from about 5 a.m. on. The alarm by my bed was set for 6:30 as usual. I wake past 7 when Jeff comes in to wake us up. He'd turned off the alarm because, well, because he was sleepy. We made it to school in time, but it just wasn't the start I'd planned.
In the midst of work frustration, I was also fretting a bit about being able to leave on time so I wouldn't leave her as the last kid standing at AfterCare. It's open til 6 p.m. but I like to get her by 5:30.
Anyway, it was 1:30 p.m. when my cell phone rang. The display said CKS (Christ the King School) was calling. How odd, I think.
Then I'm informed that there's no AfterCare today. And it was early dismissal. School had ended at 1 p.m. I'm downtown. CKS is not.
As I sped north, passing cars right and left, cursing at slow drivers and fast lights, I had flash backs about those long hours spent outside Shakamak Middle and High Schools. I'd sit there, ticked off and embarrassed, waiting for that dusty Impala to arrive. After what would seem like days, it would swing into the parking lot, full of Avon bags destined for cosmetic-starved housewives in rural Indiana; powered by a surly mother of 7, who may or may not have felt as bad as I did.
It was awful. Probably contributed to my out-of-tune band career. But that which does not kill us makes us stronger, right? Maybe it just makes you bitter. I don't know.
Regardless, I get to CKS, and Ali is waiting on bench inside in the a/c. Miss Becky is smiling at the door, impressed I hope at my arrival time. "Don't worry about it. There's always one. This year it's you!" she said.
If she'd hoped to make me feel better, she failed spectacularly.
"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry," I said, rushing through the door. "I didn't know there wasn't After Care."
Alison put down her Geronimo Stilton book and smiled up at me. "It's fine, Mom. I didn't know either," she said.
She honestly wasn't troubled. And Becky said she'd been a model citizen. It would have been prime time for her to wheedle her way to an ice cream cone or new Pokemon pack, but she didn't even ask. We headed back to work and she was a dream there, too.
At one point I looked over at her quiet little self and said, "Alison, did you know you're my favorite daughter?"
She didn't look up. She just said what she always says when I utter that phrase: "Mom. I'm your only daughter."
I told her of the only other time I'd failed to get to her on time. I was in a meeting with the governor and it had gone long. Ali was maybe 4-months-old, and I was new to Day Care. Someone in the meeting mentioned the time and I yelped. She was just across the street, but the meeting was still going strong. My friend Cindy, the governor's scheduler and AKA Aunt Cindy, offered to get her for me.
Apparently Alison was expecting me and nobody else but me. Cindy told me later that she'd screamed the whole walk back and that she would NEVER pick her up for me again.
A few hours after I told Ali that story, she asked me about it again. "Mommy, did Aunt Cindy really say she'd never pick me up again when I cried so much?"
"Yup," I said.
Crushed, she said, "Not ever?"
I reminded her that it was Aunt Cindy. She had quickly forgiven her, even though she had cried like a little baby.
"But I was a baby!" Alison protested.
"Exactly," I said.
I'm probably never going to make Alison continue on with an extra-curricular activity she doesn't like, and I hope I never screw up about pick-up time again.
While she took her neglect well today, I have to wonder if there's a three strikes rule for parental pick up.