Last night was “Student Share Night” at Bini’s school. In my day, we called it open house, but whatever. Bini’s teacher told him he “had” to come, and although we’d planned to, I don’t like being told what to do, which should give you an idea of what kind of student I was.
Anyway, there was a frozen-yogurt social afterward (because it’s healthier than ice cream), and I volunteered to help scoop toppings. You probably don’t know this about me, but I slung fro-yo in my day. Yep. Yogurt Park, a Walnut Creek, Calif., institution, where the small size was medium and if you wanted a small, you ordered a mini. DUH. For three straight summers, I perfected the art of calling out “Can I help who’s next?” while looking supremely bored.
Bini was alternately nervous and excited as we fought our way through the thick crowd on the way to his classroom. There, he showed us what he’s been up to since September. Holy mackerel. They do so much WORK, and some of these kids have better penmanship than I do. We looked at his Suessy sentence, and his book of self portraits since the start of the year (in September, Bini drew his arms coming right out of his giant square torso; this month, he’s got arms and shoulders and perfectly rendered hair). We saw his “What I want to be when I grow up,” and my kid wants to be a secret agent. Could be worse. One kid wanted to be a princess ballerina, and her parents have to figure out how to break it to her.
I had to split a bit early and make my way to the mosh pit that was the gym, where people were queuing up for miles to have Menchie’s frozen yogurt. (All they had was vanilla, which was just my damn luck.) I muscled my way up to the front, where there were nine tables of volunteers scooping out toppings: chocolate chips, two kinds of sprinkles, some sort of crunchy chocolate cereal I didn’t recognize, and chocolate and caramel syrup. It was complete chaos, which is what you’d expect in an elementary school gym where they’re giving out free frozen desserts to a bunch of kids. Seeing no order to the situation, I walked up to toppings-scoopers and offering to relieve them. One woman finally agreed, so I stepped in next to another mom.
“Let’s try and split it up,” she said. “You do the caramel and chocolate sauces, and I’ll do the scooping.” She was probably a project manager in real life. This system worked for about three minutes, and after getting goop all over myself I noticed that the other volunteers had on gloves. I walked off to glove up, and when I came back 80 seconds later, there was another volunteer in my spot, grimly squirting sauces.
“Oh hey — I can slip back in here. Just needed to put gloves on,” I said.
“I’ve got it,” was the terse reply.
Okee doke. I was ready to find my family and go home to find some chocolate when the harried organizer rushed past, looking like she might have a nervous breakdown. “Oh thank God,” she nearly sobbed. “Can you PLEASE help out on table nine? She’s all alone and it’s just crazy.”
Table nine was indeed busy, but it wasn’t like Altamont or nothin’. Me and my topping compatriot worked congenially, side by side. She seemed to grasp that this was a happy thing, delivering sugar to people. And it was an interesting experience, topping vanilla frozen yogurt for the school population and their families. The kids, by and large, had better manners than their parents. One grandmother dug her hand into my chocolate chips and shoved them into her mouth, dropping strays onto the table.
“Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you not to do that,” I said. “If you’d like some toppings, I can put them in a cup for you.” She grunted and walked away, munching.
Shortly, it was 7:45 and the cleanup crew (again, volunteer parents) was on the case, breaking down tables and kicking people out. Which was fine. I went outside to find Steve and Bini on the “lower playground” (the “upper playground” is for “big kids,” according to my son). I managed to catch Bini doing the whole monkey bars, all by himself, while Serena, the adorable pigtailed girl from his class, watched from below. When he hopped down, she gave him a hug. He let her.
On the way home, we ran into another family from the street and we walked home together. “Do you remember elementary school being like this?” asked Amir, our neighbor, who himself had a rigorous education in Israel. All of the adults agreed that we didn’t. But I’m not going on again about that.