April 1, 2013.
One quarter of the way through the year. Time to check in with those New Year’s Resolutions. In the wee hours of January 1st while being kept awake by the neighbours’ illuminated, inflatable Christmas decorations, I promised myself I would do certain things this year.
In no particular order:
1. Talk to Maggie about her taking permanent custody of Fergus.
Check. Not only did I talk to Maggie, but the mission was successful. Maggie and Fergus are happy, I am happy, and as Jack is no longer snacking on high-calorie, gourmet dog biscuits, the paediatrician is also happy. Jack, however, still suffers from Fergus-withdrawal symptoms. Would a goldfish or two fill the pet void, I wonder? Or is Jack merely suffering from dog-biscuit-withdrawal symptoms? We could give the goldfish a try, I suppose. If it turns out it’s pet food Jack misses, he’ll have a hard time putting on weight if he starts pinching Goldie’s fish food.
Unless Sandra comes to visit and she buys him a piran—
No. Don’t even think about it.
2. Check out the local elementary school and enrol Jack for kindergarten.
Another tick in another box. Jack will start kindergarten after Labor Day, just six months from now. After last week’s school assembly for the parents of prospective kindergarteners, when we were all assured our offspring were Special And Important, we were herded into a series of classrooms where we sat on miniature chairs, banged our knees on miniature desks, and handed over paperwork to assorted admin assistants, to
enlist our children in the academia sausage machine enrol our children in the Class of 2026.
The admin assistant to whom I gave my paperwork was, not to put too fine a point on it, not very bright.
She had a clipboard with a sheet of paper that said “Kindergarten Registration Checklist.” Nothing complicated on the list, until we came to the item that requested “US Birth Certificate.”
I handed her Jack’s, which, as he was born in Milton Keynes, was issued in the UK.
She looked at it, turned it over and back again, then asked, “Which state was he born in?”
Assuming she meant “State” in the sovereign sense, I said, “United Kingdom.”
A pause while she held the certificate up to the light.
“Is that like Puerto Rico or Guam?”
“No. It’s like England or Scotland.”
This time, a frown.
“So, it’s, like, not a state in the USA?”
“No, it’s Great Britain.”
“Britain? You mean British?”
I nodded, daring to hope we were getting somewhere. Silly me.
She jabbed at the clipboard with her pen. “I need a US birth certificate.”
“But I can’t give you one.”
“Then I can’t complete the registration form. Can you get a US birth certificate?”
For the love of God. I saw the Principal walking by and called out to him:
“Could you please explain to this lady why I haven’t got an American birth certificate for my son and why I’m unable to get one, and why it doesn’t matter?”
Eventually we got it sorted out.
As I signed the forms that condemned Jack to thirteen years of compulsory schooling with no parole, I asked the woman, “Do you work here?”
The idea that our local taxes paid her to work among impressionable children was quite alarming.
She shook her head. “I’m on the PTA, just volunteering tonight.”
That was a relief.
“So you know Jodee Addison?” I asked.
“Of course! We did our realtor training together.”
Realtor? Aha! It was all becoming clear now.
“What about Melissa Harvey Connor? Do you know her as well?”
A beaming smile. “Everyone knows Melissa! Is she a friend of yours?”
I tucked all Jack’s paperwork carefully in a manilla folder, then stood up to let the next person in the queue have their turn in the torture chair.
“Absolutely not,” I said.
Talking of Melissa: 3. Find another house.
Yes, we really should get round to finding somewhere else. It would mean paying two lots of rent if we found somewhere now, though, because Melissa won’t release us from the lease early.
4. Make friends based on their personalities rather than nationalities.
And — check! My new friend from kindergarten registration evening, Willow Reeves, is not English, but as American as they get.
After we’d both finished being tortured by the PTA, Willow said to me “Got time for a coffee?”
Only she didn’t say “coffee.” She said “cawfee.”
“Sure,” I said. Because I can say things like “sure” now and not feel like a Brit trying to be American.
“Maxwell Plum?” she said. “The owners are friends of mine.”
Willow Reeves and Anna Gianni. Yes, that made sense.
5. Go to England and see what sort of a dog’s dinner Sandra has made of our house.
Over Maxwell Plum espressos — not a good idea, in retrospect; those babies pack more caffeine than a Red Bull reduction, and it was already 8 p.m. — Willow and I exchanged life stories. She’s originally from Brooklyn, New York, which is why we were having cawfee together instead of coffee.
“So you’re telling me,” she said, “that your mother-in-law, who gave you food poisoning at Thanksgiving, regifted you a pit bull for your wedding anniversary, and bought a tarantula for your three-year-old, is living in your house in England? And you haven’t checked on that house since she moved in?”
I gazed down into my espresso. “Yep.”
Willow leaned back in her chair. “Looks are so deceptive,” she said. “You don’t seem insane on the outside, but you must be. Aren’t you worried about your home?”
“Of course,” I said. “But what can I do? I’m 3000 miles away, and she’s my husband’s mother, not mine.”
“You need to visit,” Willow insisted. “I had some friends who sublet their apartment in New York while they went travelling for a year, and the subtenants did all kinds of shit to the apartment. Guess who had to pay to put it right? Not the subtenants.”
“What sort of ‘shit’?” I asked.
“The absolute literal kind. These guys kept adopting stray cats. When the ASPCA went in, there were 37 in this one-bedroomed apartment and only two litter trays.”
“And you say your monster-in-law likes animals?” Willow said. “Well, honey, I just don’t know why you’re sitting here having cawfee. If it was me, I’d be heading over to Logan for the next plane home.”
For the last few days, have been thinking over what Willow said. She’s right. It’s time for another trip home.
Oliver and I need a little talk.
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