Invisible Girl

I was nine years old, and I wanted to buy a present for my sister's birthday. My mom dropped me off at The Blossom Cottage, a local boutique, and told me she'd be back in ten minutes. We lived in the kind of town where you could drop off your nine-year-old for ten minutes without qualms. Or so she thought.

There were two salesladies in the back of the store when I went in, but no other customers. No one greeted me, although I'm sure there were little bells attached to the door that jingled when I walked through. I went to the stationery section and picked out a package of Suzy's Zoo paper.

I was standing in the center aisle of the store, about to approach the cashier's desk, when the two women started to walk towards the front of the store. They walked by me, and I swear one of them made eye contact with me, and then they turned out the light, completely left the store, pulled the door closed, and one of them locked it. While I stood there gaping at them. It all happened so fast I didn't have time to say, "Hey, wait!" or "Um, I want to buy this Suzy's Zoo stationery for my sister!" or "WTH?"

I stood there in the silent store. I wandered to the back and down all the aisles to make sure that I really, truly was there alone. The store was completely empty. It was creepy and dark. I felt stupid and also very scared.

I went to stand by the front door; I pulled it to make sure it really was locked. My mom pulled up to the curb; she waved at me through the car window. I shrugged. She waved. I gesticulated. She got out of the car. "I'm locked in!" I shouted.

"What do you mean?" she asked. She pulled on the door. "Krista, how did this happen?"

"I don't know!" I said. I felt like crying. Was I going to have to spend the night in The Blossom Cottage? Sleep amongst the pot pourri, the windchimes, the quilted handbags? What about dinner? What if I had to pee? Suddenly I really had to pee.

"Try to go through the back door and come down the alley," Mom instructed.

"But I didn't get to buy this!" I said beseechingly, holding up Jana's present.

"Well you can't buy it if there's nobody there to pay for it!" she said.

I turned around. I sadly put the stationery back where it came from and then I walked cautiously through the store, past the cashier's desk, through a door into a very dark storeroom. I saw a heavy metal door; I said a small prayer, and pushed. Salvation! It opened, and I went into the alley and ran for my life, all the way back to the car.

It remains one of the strangest experience of my life. I swear the saleslady saw me, I swear it. And yet she walked right by me as if I wasn't there, as if my existence didn't even register. Could it be that, for just a moment, I was invisible?

To this day, any time I see a Suzy's Zoo animal, a whimsical duck, a smiling turtle, I shudder a little bit, and remember the day when I simply wasn't there.



At a reception for some of Mallory's friends, who'd just taken their First Communion.

Little Boy: Mom, it didn't have any taste at all!

Mother: What, your cake?

Little Boy: No! The body of Christ!


Last Day Part I

Today was Phoebe's last day of preschool; Mallory still has two weeks of school to go, which of course she finds vastly unfair. "Will you be sad not to go to school anymore?" I asked Phoebe last week, and she said, "Of course not!" but I think she'll miss it, even if only secretly.

At their year-end program last night (pictures? I'd love to share, except that I have lost yet another camera), the preschool director told me, "Lots of kids blossom in their first year of school, but with Phoebe -- well, more than one butterfly came out of her cocoon," which is kind of a convoluted way of saying that Phoebe came way out of her shell in a big way. She started as the girl who wouldn't make eye contact with her teachers or say a single word to another child; now she makes jokes with the teachers, has lots of friends, and she sang the loudest in the show last night too. Plus, she can spell her name (or almost -- P H O B E), cut with scissors, and draw people with faces. Success!

And lest you think I'm bragging, or making it up, her teacher presented me with a 70-page document outlining every blessed thing Phoebe learned this year, from Objective 1.1 (Child enters classroom easily) to Objective 3.7 (Child grasps pencil correctly) to Objective 10.7 (Child can balance on one foot) -- with photographic evidence of every skill. No kidding. It's quite impressive. Or obsessive, as the case may be.

So, this chapter is over. We move on to summer, and then to another year of preschool, and then finally to kindergarten -- when she and Mallory will finally be on the same schedule and can be dropped off at the same school entrance! That's a day I'm really looking forward to.



This morning I gave Phoebe a kiss and said, "Okay, I gotta go to work now." Phoebe said: "Mommy, why do you go to work again and again and again and again?"


A few days after I started at my current job, I woke up early and took a shower and thought to myself: "I can't wait til this is over." Up until then, everything I'd ever done had been temporary. Summer jobs lasted two or three months. School let out for summer. College semesters were relatively brief. There was a definite endpoint for any misery experienced therein -- a bad biology teacher, the bratty kids I babysat for, 8:30 classes on Monday Wednesday and Fridays. But I realized, that day in that early morning shower, that this was it. This was grown-up life, it was working for a living. There was no "over" in sight, not for a very long time.

That wasn't the happiest revelation of my life.


I can't drive by a construction site without thinking of the job held by one of Mallory's teacher's husbands. He evaluates building sites and determines how much dirt will have to be hauled away to accommodate the new structures. Every time I think of that, I also think: My job could be worse.


I heard a program on the radio today about the collapse of the furniture industry in North Carolina. A large majority of furniture manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas. The commentator noted, however, that in due time -- by which he meant forty or fifty years -- the rising price of fuel and the likely pay hikes demanded by the overseas workers will make it more expensive to make furniture abroad, and furniture companies will attempt to move operations back to the States. By that time, however, there will be no one left over here who knows how to make furniture. What a tangled web, etc.


I often think about what my daughters will be when they grow up. In a way, it's fruitless to speculate; I'm sure my parents never imagined that I would be a web editor when I grew up, because up until a decade or so ago there was no such thing. Who knows what new-fangled Jobs of the Future my kids will wake up and not want to go to. Mallory says she wants to be a rock star, a model, and a TV actor. I think she'd be a good investigative journalist, since she asks questions incessantly and persistently. Phoebe says she wants to be a mommy, which would please me -- although she also says that she wants me to take care of her babies while she goes to work. She's going to have to wait a while to have her kids, in that case -- the way my 401k is looking now, there's no way I'll be able to take early requirement.


Best Friends

Phoebe's best friend is, unfortunately, moving to Pennsylvania at the end of the school year. Or, as Phoebe put it, "Abby's not going to live in Carowina any more." These two girls are so sweet together -- they've had half a dozen playdates and nary a disagreement.

Abby's mother had to move away from her best friend when she in kindergarten. The two became penpals and remained so close that they served as each other's maids of honor.

I'll help Phoebe write letters to Abby, and I hope that they have fun being penpals. It would be nice to think that they'll keep in touch and still be friends twenty years from now.

Of course, I'd rather that Phoebe's best friend would stick around; I'm a bit sad for her. On the other hand, she started out this school year so very shy, it's a relief to me that she made a friend at all. And since she's made one, I'm certain that she can make another. I figure that even if she and Abby don't stay in touch, she'll still always remember the little red-haired girl who was her very first best friend.


What's on my mind

We have a compost bin and a rain barrel in the corner of our backyard, and I'm feeling good about how much good I'm doing for the environment. Except that the other night I saw a huge black snake lying between the compost bin and the rain barrel, and so that's it, I'm done, I'm never going in the backyard again.

Phoebe has made friends with several little girls in her preschool class, and it's sweet that she's outgrown her shyness. Now, however, she's asking me for playdates every seven minutes. Also, she's spending an inordinate amount of time talking about her birthday party, which is, she keeps telling us, "only two pages away" -- by which she means calendar pages, of course.

Huge swaths of North Carolina pine forests have been cut down in my little town, the better to build a new bypass. This makes me sad. On the other hand, the bypass, when finished, will pretty much begin at my neighborhood and end at my-inlaw's, so I'm glad they kept me and my annoyance with red lights in mind when they were planning it.

Mallory watched a few minutes of The Andy Griffith Show with Chris the other night; her comment was, "Why did they do this show in pencil?"

Phoebe reminded me last night that Jesus is the light of the world. Except she pronounced it like this: woy-yerld.


In which I retract my previous post altogether

So I have a kind of funny story to tell, except it's also a bit embarrassing both to me and to Mallory, and lately I've been wondering how much I should continue to blog about the children, particularly Mallory, since she's getting older and has more of a sense of privacy and so forth...but considering what she did to ME this week, I think I'm well within my rights to spill it...so basically, I could have just told the story and spared you all this inner debate, couldn't I?

Although, because this story does paint Mallory in a pretty bad light, I have to start by pointing out that Mallory is really, really bad with the snappy comebacks. I have seen her in situations where she's under pressure to say something clever, or to respond to a friend who's not being particularly nice, and she always rather spectacularly fails to deliver. Last year her favorite response to being reprimanded by me or Chris was: "Well, I'm going to have much more funner than you in kindergarten!" And once, when the girl next door was being snotty, Mallory said, "Yeah, well, I'm going to Disney World tomorrow, so there!" At which point Snotty Girl asked me if that were true, and although I really wanted to lie to defend Mallory's honor, I couldn't bring myself to do it, so Mallory just ended up looking like...well, a liar, and not a very bright one at that. All of which is to say that Mallory must have said the egregious thing she said because she was trying valiantly to impress somebody in some way, or to respond to something else outrageous that someone else had said, and I also think that the person she said it directly to is a "friend" who is also a taunter and a baiter and who I wish would go away and leave Mallory alone already.

And now you're probably wishing I would get to the point already. So I will. Tuesday night I came home to find a message from the principal. She said that she'd had a little talk with Mallory about something, and that she wanted to talk to me as well. I of course asked Mallory what this was all about, and Mallory hemmed and hawed and refused to answer for a few hours and then finally said, "Well, it was all a big misunderstanding between me and Anna."

"About what?" I said.

"We were having snack, and it was REALLY LOUD! And I said something and Anna thought I said something else and she told Mrs H about it."

"What did you say?"

"Um...that you were the best mom ever."

"Okay...what did Anna think you said?"

"That...um...that you were going to kill a lot of people."

"That I was going to kill a lot of people?!?"

"Yeah. But I really said that you were the best mom ever."

Except that of course, that's not really what she said. In my meeting with the principal the next morning -- who, I have to add, was pretty much chortling the whole time -- Mrs H said that Anna's mom had called her, reporting that Anna said that Mallory said (there's got to be a way to explain this without all these "saids") that one night she snuck downstairs and overheard ME telling Chris that I was going to kill her and Phoebe and then kill all the kids in first grade as well.

"Oh dear," I said to Mrs H.

"I assured Anna's mother that you posed no danger to the students," Mrs H continued, "but I did want you to be aware of what Mallory had said. We won't punish her here in school, but you may want to talk to her."

"Yes indeed," I said, and then I said I was completely mortified, and then told her about Mallory's "but I actually said you were the best mom ever" line, and then we laughed about how dumb kids can be, and I told her I appreciated her talking to me, but the bottom line is:

I'm pretty mortified.

Also, I'm feeling pretty lucky that Mallory goes to a very small school, and that I am known to its staff, because in a larger school, Mrs H may have just sent CPS or the FBI to my front door instead of calling me in and laughing it off.

Also, although, as I explained, I can perfectly picture the circumstances under which Mallory would have said something so outrageous, I can also picture another child's mom thinking that I must have raised my child in a barn, or with wolves, or with a constant stream of violent TV shows, or something.

Also, I guess we've done a 180 from last year, when all of Mallory's classmates were on my side with righteous indignation, because now they all probably think I'm a crazy lady.

Also, if my child is going to be a liar, it's at least good that she's such a horrible one.

Also, in spite of everything, it's kind of nice to have this kind of blackmail-worthy story under my belt. Mallory's not going to live this down for many years to come.


Moments they prove that they're good people after all

Mallory came home from a birthday party on Saturday and promptly gave her goodie bag to Phoebe. "I feel bad you didn't get to come, Phoebe, so here you go!" she said.

Phoebe said, "Thanks! This is such a nice goodie bag! I'm going to give it to my best friend, because she didn't get to go the the party either."