“May, more than any other month of the year, wants us to feel most alive.” Fennel Hudson, author, naturalist, and countryman
“May is trying to kill us.”—Parents everywhere
In the middle of the well-appointed foyer of a large, bright home, filled to the brim with guests, stands a slightly bedraggled, yet smartly dressed couple. Somewhere in their mid-30’s to late 40’s, they are no longer young, but not yet old. They are well put-together, but far from at ease. They speak in hushed tones, their eyes darting over each other’s shoulders, attempting to keep their plot under wraps.
“I mean, aren’t you ready to go?” the man hisses from the side of his mouth.
“Of course I’m ready to go, Derek. I was ready to go when we got here! I just feel bad. I mean, there are still so many people here, and no one else is leaving. And I can’t even find my purse in this mess. I swear I put it right…here. Somewhere. Do you see it?” They dig through a mountain of purses and jackets scattered over a pair of matching swanky chairs. The kind of chairs that aren’t actually meant for sitting, but rather for looking at and holding purses and jackets.
“Susan, I’m gonna be honest, I don’t know what your purse looks like, or why you even brought it. You don’t need anything in it! I’ve got your phone and lipstick in my pocket, for Pete’s sake. And, I promise you, everyone here wants to leave. It’s just that no one wants to be the first one to go! Come on. Let’s do it. No one will even notice. Seriously. Come on. We can go to Waffle House on the way home.” Derek wiggles his eyebrows at this prospect and reaches for Susan’s waist. “The babysitter’s not expecting us for at least—“
“Oh my goodness! Are we bringing the party out into the foy-AY? Tell me you are not leaving?! Not this early!”
The gathering’s hostess, Lillian (spelled “Lillian,” but pronounced “Lilly Ann,” a nuance that everyone knows, and isn’t allowed to forget), has appeared from thin air, riding on a gust of floral perfume and wearing a brightly printed, floor-length caftan that she purchased on her last exotic vacation. Derek and Susan look at her with wide eyes and simultaneously burst into nervous laughter.
“Oh no, I just…I just came out here to help Susan look for her purse…” Derek steps backward and almost falls into a mountain of blazers.
“Yes, I just could not find it anywhere!” Susan babbles away. “There are just so many of them out here… I mean, all I needed was to grab my phone. You know, check in with the babysitter… Let her know that things were running a little late… Just having so much fun (more nervous laughter)…” She tries to change the subject. “Goodness, Lillian, these chairs are just gorgeous! Where in the world did you find them?”
Lillian ignores Susan but playfully slaps Derek on his behind. He is momentarily shocked, then manages more nervous laughter. “Looking for your phone, darlin’?” she simpers. “Well, I think I found it! Right here along with this scrumptious little peach!” Another pat (and maybe, no, definitely, a squeeze. A firm one, in fact) on Derek’s rump, and raucous laughter from all three of them rings out into the foy-ay, while Derek mockingly slaps himself on the forehead at his stupidity.
“Yes, darlin’, you just go ahead and text that babysitter that you are gonna be LATE TO-NIGHT! Sweetheart, they are just now linin’ up for the three-legged race, so y’all just get right on in there! And after that, we’ll do the potato sack race. Were you in charge of bringin’ potato sacks? I can’t remember who signed up for that… Anyway, after all the games, there are AWAAAAARDS! You can’t miss the AWAAAAARDS!!!! Have y’all had a cupcake yet? Margie made them from SCRATCH, and they are simply amazing. I promise you will not miss the gluten a single bit. No tree nut allergies here, are there? Y’all just come on back in, now, I will not hear another peep about you leavin’ and missin’ a single thing!”
Lillian throws one arm over Susan’s shoulder and loops her other arm around Derek’s elbow as she steers them away from the foy-ay and toward the backyard, where a multitude of weary adults shoot serious side-eye at them for their attempted escape. The plot wasn’t so well-hidden, after all. Lillian whispers in Susan’s ear, “The chairs are from Paris. I saw them and just could not bear to leave them there. Cost more than the whole darn trip to bring them back here!” She throws her head back and laughs loudly into the air. Susan offers a half-smile and cranes her neck to see how the wine levels are holding up at the bar. The wine. It just seems so far away…
“Dude, why didn’t you tell me? I would have gone with you,” a man whispers to Derek, as he walks by. He’s in the process of tying his right leg to his wife’s left leg.
“Man, I couldn’t. It was a split-second decision. We thought we saw a way out, but…” Derek’s words trail off as he looks wistfully at the doorway leading back into the house, now filled with Lillian’s caftan-clad figure.
Through gritted teeth, the woman who is now firmly attached to her husband’s leg hisses, “We are all. In this. Together,” As if to further drive her point home, she tosses Susan a large burlap sack. “Here. Get in.”
This? This “party?” This is what it’s like for parents of school-age children during the month of May. A party that started out reasonably fun. But now? We’re so over it. We’ve met the people and we’ve made all the small talk. We’ve eaten the canapes and sampled the dessert. It is time to G-O go. Vaya con Dios, suckers. We out. At this point, all we want to do is go home, take off these stupid pants and lie down for, like, 10 minutes. But the hostess of the gathering is a snapping turtle that just will not let go.
Legend has it that a snapping turtle won’t release its victim until it thunders. So I say, BRING ON THE RAIN. The thought of another awards ceremony, recital, performance, recognition event, or season-ending wrap party makes me want to just lock myself in the pantry with all the snacks I signed up to bring and tell everyone that I’ll be back in June. I thought everything was supposed to be ending; but, it’s all still going on, requiring more involvement than ever! How is this happening? I feel like I’m on a merry-go-round where the carnie walked off for a smoke break and decided not to come back. And some of these people want us to go ahead and sign up for next year. Next year? You’ve got to be kidding me. I can’t think about next year! Honestly, I checked out of this year right after Spring Break.
This week we’ve gotten multiple messages from our school as to how to best prepare our children for standardized testing. TESTING? Lord above, we are being tested every morning that we have to drag our ragged selves out of bed. Here’s a test. Can we get to school, on time, with shoes that fully enclose our feet, and shorts that go past our fingertips and last night’s homework completed, and a check for lunch money?
No. No, we cannot. We do not meet standards. Put it on my permanent record.
Lunch money. Did someone say “lunch money?” Oh, my lands, I need to send in lunch money. Like three days ago. Please feed my children, kind lunch ladies, who are surely just as over all this nonsense as I am. I commend you all for not just tossing pizza slices to children at random. Because that’s exactly what I’m doing for dinner tonight.
Once upon a time, May meant day-drinking and getting dressed up for parties that came with pretty, printed invitations, not e-mails with Sign-Up Genius links. May is supposed to represent a new beginning. The bright foy-ay leading into summer. The award presented for making it through the long, dreary winter.
Wait. Did somebody say “award?” Don’t start with me, May. I might be off my game, but I’m on to yours. I signed up first, and I’m bringing plates and napkins. Winning!