Jack and I sit at the kitchen table, surrounded by the Disney Valentine cards and heart-decorated pencils I bought in January. It’s serious business, writing out sixteen Valentine cards when you’ve only just learned your alphabet — Jack, not me — and over the course of this afternoon’s school project, Jack’s right fist has acquired a layer of black pencil smudges, and my patience is now but a chiffon veneer.
“Last card,” I say. Not before time. “Which one for Crystal?” I ask Jack. “The little one with Cinderella, or the big one with Belle?”
I know it’s not conventional to do this kind of project in late February, but the massive snowstorm and resultant clear-up three weeks ago meant the nursery school’s planned Valentine’s Party was cancelled. Jack had been distraught and sulked for days, his mood lifting only when he learned that the party would take place two weeks later instead. I was surprised at this; last year’s episode at his other preschool should have put him off romance for life.
Jack points at the card with Belle on the front. “That one for Crystal. The big one.
He picks up his pencil and writes “Jack” in the space marked “From”, his tongue poking out of one side of his mouth, then painstakingly copies Crystal’s name from the list provided by the nursery school. After he writes the final letter, I hold out my hand, ready to Scotch tape a new pencil onto the card like all the others.
“I haven’t finished yet,” he says, and proceeds to write two rows of x’s at the bottom of the card. When he runs out of room, he admires his handiwork, and passes it to me. “And Crystal needs two pencils.”
The clouds part, and at last I understand why Jack was so disappointed when the real Valentine’s party was cancelled.
You always give the big Valentine to the person you like best at nursery school — I remember this from last year. But two pencils? That’s serious.
At not quite five years old, my son Jack is in love.
* * *
With or without a crush on a five-year-old girl with blonde pigtails and a predilection for Hello Kitty T-shirts, Jack likes going to nursery school. He likes the toy car corner, and the toy DIY workbench you can bang loudly and legitimately with plastic hammers, and he particularly likes the Show-and-Tell sessions, where the children are encouraged to bring something from home to talk about. Some kids refuse to take anything, ever, and others like to bring something every day. Jack, being a talkative soul, is of the latter persuasion, but unfortunately his selection of objects is limited. He takes either a toy Lightning McQueen or a model of Ironman, and no helpful suggestions from me — “A seashell? A pound coin? This empty Curly Wurly wrapper?” — will convince him otherwise.
Today, though, he surprises me: as I walk him from the parking lot into school I notice he’s carrying the little wooden box that Maggie gave Beth for Christmas, the one with fairies and toadstools painted on it. Come to think of it, this is the first time in weeks I’ve seen it.
“Is that for Show-and-Tell?” I ask, and after a second’s pause he nods.
While I’m pleased he’s exercising his imagination by bringing something other than overpriced, trademarked tat, I’m concerned because the box doesn’t belong to him.
“You must look after it,” I say, helping him off with his coat, then adding unconvincingly, “and you should have asked Beth first before you took it.”
Jack glances at his sister in her pushchair then shoots me a disbelieving look that says clearly, “But Beth is ten months old and can’t talk yet.”
“Just make sure you bring it home again!” I call to him as he runs into the classroom clutching the box to his chest and is lost in a heaving sea of pink-and-red-clad, over-excited Lilliputians.
* * *
Parties are not parties without swag bags, and this Valentine’s party is no exception. Jack bursts into the house after school and, while I’m depositing the twins on the floor to crawl around and eat interesting items on the floor, dumps a brown paper bag upside-down on the kitchen table.
A heap of Valentine cards — pretty much identical to those we wrote yesterday — plus heart-decal pencils, temporary tattoos of Cupid, heart-shaped erasers, and heart-shaped lollipops scatter everywhere. Jack picks through them, putting the small gifts on one side and the cards on another. Then he goes through the gift pile and discards anything that is inedible and too frou-frou. The cards and girly gifts are ruthlessly chucked in the kitchen bin.
I close my eyes, reliving the two (pointless) hours yesterday of writing every child’s name on a card. In sixteen other Woodhaven homes at this moment, Jack’s careful handiwork and probably quite a few of his pencils have met a similar fate and are now resting among potato peelings and flu-ridden tissues.
Or maybe not. One card has escaped the carnage: a large one with a picture of Ironman. It’s signed: “Lv Frm Crstl”. Presumably Crystal-who-must-receive-two-pencils, who appears to have a grudge against vowels.
I ask, as casually as possible, “Did Crystal like the pencils?”
Jack hesitates, then nods.
“And what did Crystal give to everyone?”
“Erasers.” Jack holds up one of the minuscule heart-shaped erasers. “And a car.” He delves into his Lightning McQueen backpack and brings out a model car.
“That’s nice,” I say. Then I study the car more closely. “You mean Crystal gave everyone one of these?”
Jack shakes his head proudly. “Only me.”
I’ll bet. This car is not a Matchbox or Hotwheels; it’s a 1/18 model of a classic Ferrari that bears more than a passing resemblance to Jack’s automotive hero, Lightning McQueen. I turn it upside down and look at for the manufacturer and model number, and do a quick google on my phone.
The results make me feel faint. An identical model is for sale on eBay. Fourteen bids, $150, reserve not met.
My guess is that a display cabinet somewhere in Crystal’s home — probably in a male-dominated part of the house — has a vacant spot at the moment.
You know — in all my fervent watching of Supernanny, I’ve yet to see an episode where one parent has to tell another mum and dad that their child is a kleptomaniac.
Next post: LIBBY’S LIFE #72 – Puppy Love
Previous post: LIBBY’S LIFE #70 – A brewing storm
Read Libby’s Life from the first episode.
Want to read more? Head on over to Kate Allison’s own site, where you can find out more about Libby and the characters of Woodhaven, and where you can buy Taking Flight, the first year of Libby’s Life — now available as an ebook.
STAY TUNED for Tuesday’s post!
If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to subscribe for email delivery of The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of the week’s posts from The Displaced Nation. Sign up for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!
Image: Travel – Map of the World by Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net