Friday, August 28, 2009

Our Real American Life

Real life has started. Which is why I'm not blogging as much as I did in the summer.

Olivia and Aaron started school on Tuesday. Gabe starts kindergarten on Monday. The first varsity football game of the season is Friday, September 4. So, the Prosser Mustangs are getting ready. There's practice every day after school until five or six.

And birthdays! We've had lots of birthdays in August. Aunt Amy's, Grandma Helen's, Grandma Nai Nai's. And Olivia's 8th birthday is today.

With all these birthdays I've been making lots of food.

This morning I iced cupcakes to take to Olivia's school. Gabe carried the white container of cupcakes and Anna carried the blue. They did a great job in the walk through the park, keeping the containers level.

But the minute we got to Olivia's table in the cafeteria, Gabe dumped the contents of his container on the floor. While scooping cupcakes off the carpet, I got icing smeared on my elbow and shin.

I corralled Sophie, Gabe and Anna and lurched out into the hallway to try to find the bathroom to wash myself up. I set Sophie in the hallway and told Gabe and Anna to watch her. After all, I didn't want to sit her on the bathroom floor and I knew it would just take me a minute to wet a paper towel and clean myself up.

But of course, 20 seconds into the cleaning process I hear, "Where's your mommy?" I poked my head out of the bathroom door and saw a lady standing there.

"I'm here," I said.

She looked at me quizzically. "Oh good. I just saw all these little people unattended in the hall."

I tried to decide whether to explain the frosting incident or not. I decided not to. Let her think whatever she wanted to think about me: bad mother who leaves her children alone in school hallways.

And as we walked back to the cafeteria, I stood in the doorway and watched Olivia eating her lunch. I noticed how sad she looked.

I went up and asked her if she wanted to hand out cupcakes to her classmates.

"No," she said, hanging her head. "I just don't feel like it."

I looked around the lunchroom, packed with kids. "Well, honey, how am I supposed to know who's in your class?"

Olivia mumbled something that I couldn't hear. So, I took a deep breath and started handing out cupcakes. "Are you in Olivia's class?" I stuck to the table at which she was sitting and the one right next to it. All the kids seemed to be in her class, and most of them were so excited to get cupcakes.

And, lo and behold, a miracle happened. There were exactly enough cupcakes in the blue container for all the kids who were left from Olivia's class in the cafeteria. And one for her to take back to her teacher, too.

After they ate them, quite a few kids came up to me and said, "Those were the best cupcakes I've ever eaten!"

I saw Olivia brighten a bit when they said that.

One little girl then said to Olivia, "I hope I'm in your class next year so I can get another cupcake on your birthday."

But as I left the cafeteria after my brief visit, I looked back and saw my little birthday girl still sitting eating, all alone now at the long table. My heart felt squeezed.

It's so different here. And it's so hard not knowing anybody well. Especially for them.

For me, I've got cooking and laundry and hauling babies around to keep me busy. I don't have dejected birthday moments at cafeteria tables to remind me how much I miss my friends in China.

I guess the moments I have are bathroom moments, when I remember that at our school in China I could always find someone to hold the baby for me.

It just takes time, that's all. We'll be okay.

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