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It is Teacher Appreciation Week again.
I love our teachers. Mrs. Pursell and Mrs. Gonzales rock. They are firm, understanding, insightful, patient, and smart. But I do not like Teacher Appreciation Week.
Part of my dislike for it is founded in my own inability to sit the bots down to make cards for their teachers a week in advance. And yesteday, on the way to the varicose vein doctor, I forgot to ask the babysitter to oversee a card-making event.
And so this morning, while sipping strawberry-secret-spinach smoothies festooned with tropical umbrellas, we had a card-making extravaganza. For three-year-old Gbot, this meant going wild with the Elmer’s glue. For four-year-old Mbot, this meant attempting to cut out snowflakes and hearts from flowery paper. He is neither strong enough or well-coordinated enough to cut through four layers of paper at once with dull child-proof scissors, and got frustrated, but at last we ended up with four cards that were only slightly goopy still upon delivery.
Yesterday was “bring your teacher a flower” day. Last year I think we brought them each a sunflower from Safeway. This year, however, we have dwarfish mums growing on the patio, and Husbot helped the bots cut one apiece for their teachers. All the other kids brought in gorgeous tulips, luscious roses, sunflowers the size of dessert plates, frilly carnations, lilting lilies. Our raggedy offerings were on six-inch stems. Last time I checked, they had not made it into the glass vases overflowing with long-stemmed gorgeousness.
But Mbot and Gbot don’t know the difference. They clutched each measly mum as though it was a rare orchid for a prom date. (although I caught Gbot squeezing one blossom in the back seat). Among the preschool set, there is definitely a disconnect between aesthetics and intension.
And it begs the question: is Teacher Appreciation Week for the students to show their appreciation? Or for parents to show their appreciation? Maybe both, but it’s tought to balance the two. One thing it isn’t is a contest. But I have to consciously stop myself from comparing–from thinking with a sigh, “Wow, our flowers are totally lame.” These talented women who are the bots’ teachers wouldn’t be preschool teachers if they didn’t see the beauty in a dwarfish, tightly-clutched mum that’s slightly worse for being fondled on the ten-minute trip to school.
We appreciate them.
Attending the Jupiter String Quartet’s Phoenix performance with Mbot was my idea. Attending the concert with Mbot and Junepy was Mbot’s idea. So was the necktie, a strip of red felt fashioned into a bow, although in the end, Mbot wore a pair of fleecy dinosaur zip-up footie pajamas and a wide, pale blue polka-dot grosgrain ribbon tied in a Windsor knot, and Junepy wore the red felt bow. “But Junepy will be handsomer than me,” worried Mbot (unnecessarily, most would agree).
I’d been lucky, the week before while in Boston, to have a friend casually drop the fact that her daughter was singing that night in the Boston Baroque Ensemble at the New England Conservatory. It was serendipity–I am a huge fan of chamber music, and particularly of Baroque music, and I am a huge fan of the NEC, as it’s home to my ultrafave radio show, NPR’s Sunday evening staple, “From the Top,” which features amazing young musicians from across the nation. As far as music goes, I am one of those people perfectly designed to provide an audience, unburdened as I was at an early age (by my piano teacher, as it happens) of any illusion that I’ve got the rhythm in me. There is evidence to make me suspect that Mbot has inherited a seat beside me among the spectators.
So my first morning back home, Mbot climbed onto the bed and asked what I’d done in Boston. “I went to hear the most beautiful music ever,” I told him. I retrieved the netbook and pulled up the Boston Baroque Ensemble’s homepage. He pointed to a picture of a bright red, erupting volano. “I want to hear that one! The volcano music!” So I clicked it–the volcano was the image on the DVD cover of the BBE’s recording of Haydn’s Creation. I left the room to brush my teeth and see what havoc Gbot was creating, and Mbot listened to the volcano music, rapt, for twenty minutes.
So I bought us tickets to the next performance sponsored by the Phoenix Chamber Music Society. It would be a big evening. It wasn’t cheap, the concert venue was almost an hour’s drive away, the concert started at what was technically bedtime, and the concert would require sitting. For over an hour. And then for another thirty minutes. While Junepy excels at sitting, Mbot’s gifts lay elsewhere.
The night arrived. An hour before takeoff, an excited Mbot announced, “Junepy wants to come!” and disappeared into the bedroom. Five minutes passed. Ten minutes passed. Silence. In my experience, ten minutes of silence usually equates to a twenty minute cleanup effort afterward, and so I went to investigate. I found Mbot on the floor struggling the bear.
He’d managed to push Junepy’s large, obstinate head through the neckhole of a shirt, but the bear’s large, obstinate feet were proving too large and obstinate to go through pantlegs without motherly help.
“Junepy’s going to be the handsomest bear there!” announced Mbot proudly. Then he said with alarm, “But he needs a tie!”
At last, everyone dressed and ready, we headed into town. “The volcano music is so beautiful,” mused Mbot from the back seat. “But why is it so beautiful? Why does it sound like swans singing?”
Why, indeed? I had no answer. But in my mind, the evening had already paid for itself.
When at last we pulled into the parking lot of the church where the preformance was being held, he studied the crowd. “Are we in the right place?” he asked. “I see lots of old people.”
“Then we KNOW it’s the right place,” I replied.
“No Mom,” he insisted. “It’s not the right place. This is the senior center.”
Indeed it did look a senior center. There was even a big white bus that had come from the senior center. Mbot was the youngest attendee by about forty years. There were a handful of twenty-somethings–literally, I could count them on my hands–and one teenage girl with her mom.
I thought the silver-haired crowd might express fear at our disruptive potential, but without exception they appeared delighted by the presence of the bot and his bear. Many observed his outfit with a sigh of envy. If only we could wear fleecy dinosaur one-piece zip-up pajamas!, everyone agreed.
We settled into a pew. The lights dimmed. The woman behind us sneezed. The musicians appeared. The concert began. “Mom, I’m dehydrated,” whispered Mbot. I found with horror that his sippy cup was empty. Thankfully, the M&Ms in my purse provided distraction. The woman behind us sneezed again. Beside me on the pew, which seemed to be designed by or for ascetics, squirming occurred. My blood pressure rose. In spite of the soothing and lovely tones of Mozart’s Quartet in D Major, K. 575, I sat rigid, hoping the squirming would be contained to our five board feet of bench.
There was considerably less squirming during the next piece, Bartok’s Quartet no. 1, due no doubt to its energetic and unpredictable progression, and so when Intermission finally arrived, with its promise of water, cookies, and an opportunity to run intervals at the back of the sanctuary, Mbot had actually earned many charmed smiles and compliments. “We need more young blood!” exclaimed one couple with delight. The woman behind us sneezed again.
“Allergies?” I asked with heartfelt sympathy, when she asked me for a tissue, which I provided.
“Do you have a cat?” she replied.
I admitted that we did, and she eyed Junepy suspiciously. “I’ll bet the fur is all over that.”
I bit back the urge to say, “Him. The fur is all over him.” but I did defend him. “Actually, he’s way cleaner than he looks.”
Still leveling a doleful gaze at Junepy, she replied, “I find that hard to believe.”
After intermission, Mbot lay on Junepy listening to the Schumann Piano Quintet until his lids slowly dropped, and he fell asleep. I finally relaxed.
Afterward, I carried Mbot through the warm night to the car. The sneezing woman kindly and bravely offered to carry Junepy.
In the following days, Mbot would claim that his favorite part of the concert were the orange M&Ms, and that he liked “to listen to beautiful music, not watch it.” But I consider the evening a triumph for chamber music, for children, and for cat-dander-carrying bears everywhere.