Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

Did I Flunk Kindergarten?

“Hi, Baby. I’ll be leaving soon. I hear traffic is awful, so it will be about an hour and a half or so until I get home.”

“Okay. Baby? Don’t get mad, okay?”

“I can’t promise that. It’s been one of those days. What’s wrong?”

“Promise first that you’ll, at least, try not to get mad.”

“Okay, I’ll try. What happened?”

“Well, the Daredevil has to do a diorama.”

“Why would I get mad about that?”

“Uh, well, she was supposed to do it over Christmas Vacation.”

I could feel the heat rise in my chest. Here it was, the day students returned back to school, and I was just finding out about a project she had two weeks to complete. I tried to control myself. All I could muster was a monosyllabic, staccato sort of question.


“I did. I just totally forgot.”

I stared at my own reflection in the rear view mirror. It’s my fault, I thought. I should have just checked her stuff myself.

“What does her diorama have to be about?”

“She is supposed to pick an animal of her choice and create its habitat in a shoe box. Then she needs to be prepared to talk about what the animal is, where it lives, and what it eats.”

I looked down at the clock. It was ten minutes until seven, and of course, none of her toys met these criteria.

“I need to run by the dollar store when I get back in the neighborhood, so why don’t you make sure that all of her other homework is complete by the time I get home.”

“Okay.” I could hear his frustration with himself in his voice, so I decided that hanging up was the best option.

Before I could, though, he asked, “What are you going to get?”

“Whatever they have at this point. We really are at the mercy of whatever is in the store.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ll see you when you get here.” I hung up the phone and stared out across the parking lot. Who in the hell assigns dioramas to kindergarten students anyway? That’s just something for parents to do.

I pulled up at the dollar store at exactly 8:13, and I headed straight for the toy section. All I could find are were dinosaurs (not exactly a current living creature), spiders (way too complicated to design for), and sharks (yep, that sounds like the Daredevil’s creature “of choice”). My mind starts racing. Okay, sharks live in the ocean, so I’m going to need blue construction paper, fish, and…crap! I dug in my pocket, and all I had was a grand total of six dollars. How in the world was I supposed to make this thing look halfway decent with six dollars? I marched over to the teacher aisle. It looks like the majority of the fish are going to be of the sticker variety and these 20 cute little 3-dimensional toys are going to be downsized, I thought. And the construction paper? Yeah, well, 1 dollar can get you a 20-page pack, but only five sheets are blue, so Mommy’s going to have to do the cutting here to make this stretch.

I pulled into the garage at 8:52, and dragged myself toward the back door. I had been up since 2:30 that morning with the baby, and now I had to work on this damn project. I was elated when I realized that the girls were already in bed.

“Hi, Mommy,” they whispered when my body darkened their doorway.

“Hi, girls.”

“Are we going to do my project, Mommy?”

“No, Sweetie. Mommy is tired, and  you are already in bed. We’ll just have to do it tomorrow night.”

“No, Mommy. I want to do it now.” I gave the Daredevil that I’ve-already-told-you-what-we-are-going-to-do look, and she quieted down to settle in for sleep.

At four o’clock the next morning, I felt fingers not-so-gently rub my face. “Mommy?”

“What is it, Baby?”

“Uh, can we do my project now? I don’t need anymore sleep.”

I dragged myself out of bed and stumbled toward the kitchen. I looked at the clock on the stove and begged, “Can we please do this tonight?”

“No, Mommy. I have to turn it in today!”

“Okay.” For the next two hours, I was a cutting, gluing, stapling, researching machine with my five-year-old sidekick in tow giggling and wiggling with delight at each addition we made to Daddy’s shoe box. I was exhausted and almost called off when I realized that I only had an hour to get to work.

“I think it’s finished, Daredevil.”

“I think you’re right, Mommy. It’s beautiful. I did a great job on this, didn’t I.”

“Yes, you did,” I said as I looked off toward the wall. “Okay. Let’s go over your speech one more time.”

“Hello, everyone. My name is D. M., and my animal is the great white shark. It lives in the ocean. It eats fish and woman, if she swims too close.”

“Sounds great, Baby.”

“Thanks for helping me do my project, Mommy.”

“Anything for you, Baby.”

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