Charlotte had brought the house down with a fantastic speech on lamingtons. Her mum had even brought in the classic Aussie dessert to share with the class. This week’s speech topic was “my favorite fruit” and not to be outdone by Charlotte and her lamingtons, Kenna decided to bring in some culinary bribery of her own.
She started work on her upcoming oratory six days ahead of schedule, meticulously making note cards and rehearsing endlessly in front of the mirror and any live audience that was willing to sit through her spiel on the joys of strawberries. The clever speech included descriptive diatribes, questionable facts, eye contact, and impressive vocal stylings. This was an A+ waiting to happen. All she needed was some culinary support and perhaps a carefully planted slow clapper at the end to intensify the electrifying response she was sure to receive.
To showcase the strawberry we settled on an all-American confection–Strawberry Shortcake. The novelty alone would win the hearts and minds of the natives. I utilized imported Bisquick to create the pastry and purchased copious amounts of fresh strawberries from Harris Farms to make the ambrosia filling. I whipped fresh cream into a frenzy for the finale. The speech and its shortcake counterpart would no doubt become the stuff of legend. I finished the masterpiece with minutes to spare and headed to Roseville Public with Aunt Leslie and Chaylee to deliver the goods.
Leslie and I arrived just early enough to quickly assemble the shortcakes. Fortunately, the children were still in the main hall enjoying a bit of dance, so we had ample time to work our magic. We layered the tasty morsels in small plastic cups, leaving room for a dollop of cream. They looked beautiful and tasted even better. There was the small problem of having limited cutlery, but Leslie and I determined that most first grade classes came equipped with some form of plastic utensil for occasions such as this.
We could hear the children in the distance and the melodic though strained voice of Mrs. Burnside* leading the way.
“Come now children. Don’t run! Hats by the door! Take your seats! Quietly please…quietly 1B***!”
Kenna’s eyes widened with utter delight as she saw her precious strawberries displayed gloriously in the clever little cups! Her mates gathered round excitedly to see what “Kenna’s Mum” had brought them. They were clearly impressed.
“Mom, I will put on the whip cream as a demonstration okay?” I nodded with maternal confidence. I had done it. I had taken her speech from here (insert hand motion) to here (repeat hand motion with increased elevation).**
Mrs. Burnside approached and offered Kenna the option of going first or last. It felt like the coin toss at the beginning of a big game.
“First please.” She replied.
That’s my girl!
Kenna delivered her speech brilliantly and without error, and before I could deliver the slow clap, I was called upon to help serve-up the big finish. It occurred to me, however, as I approached the table that some key planning had not taken place. I had not brought napkins, nor had I addressed the cutlery issue with Mrs. Burnside.
“Mrs. Burnside, I only have 11 forks. Might you have some available?” Her already palpable stress visibly increased. “No, but you may be able to find some in the faculty lounge, Mrs. Pasley.” She was passively displeased.
I quickly ran out the door to do some fork finding while Kenna placed uncomfortably large portions of whipped cream onto the shortcakes. Meanwhile, Mrs. Burnside, noting our lack of serviettes, asked Max to run to the back of the room to collect paper towels. I raced back from my successful mission to find Mrs. Burnside crouched uncomfortably near Kenna and Aunt Leslie holding back nervous laughter on the sidelines. The children were hovering over the table of treats like little pugnacious vultures, fighting for flesh.
“I want that one!”
“I don’t like strawberries! I just want cake!”
“I don’t like the cake, I just want the cream!”
“I’m hate strawberries!”
“I want the big cup!”
“No, I get that one!!!”
“Mrs. Burnside, how would you like us to proceed?” I said, hoping some leadership would emerge amongst the chaos. I don’t think she heard me. She continued to attempt to bring order, correcting individual student transgressions like a flustered nanny.
Since the speech was only supposed to take three minutes, and it had already been nearly ten, I decided to just start handing out the cups randomly, not realizing that the napkin situation had not been brought under control. Max was running around aimlessly near the paper towels, clearly not meeting his objective. Leslie intervened but it was too late. The children had begun to eat before the utensils and paper towels had been distributed. That’s when things got ugly.
Mrs. Burnside was beginning to unravel—she was like a mildly deranged Mary Poppins.
“Sit Down! Place your rubbish on the table! I said, sit down! That is NOT where that cup goes. Place your rubbish on the table! Be more careful please. Sit down 1B!”
Strawberries were being strewn across the newly cleaned carpet and haphazardly crushed into the grey threads by wandering school shoes. The red chunks of pulverized fruit were accompanied by bits of shortcake and entrails of cream. Many a school uniform was compromised as well. It was a disaster. The clever little cups were no match for the little uncoordinated consumers.
Aunt Leslie offered to address one of the stains on the floor. Mrs. Burns accepted her offer with a sort of righteous indignation. I cowered in the back, intermittently eating left over shortcake, while frantically cleaning off sticky cutlery. I could over hear Mrs. Burnside instructing Leslie to address additional stains like she was Jane or Michael Banks. Apparently, there were many. Despite the guilt of knowing she was on her hands and knees scouring the floor, I could not make eye contact Leslie, knowing that one look would send us both into a hysterics. How could it all go so horribly wrong?
We collected our rubbish and left over samples and headed quickly for the door before Grace’s speech on Rock Mellon got underway. Evidently, she had samples too.
Words of the Day:
Good thing I was not Pat Malone (alone) when I got into froth and bubble (trouble). Ta Les.
Have you had any classroom debacles as a parent or child that you would like to share? Because I would like to hear them.
Points of Interest:
* Mrs. Burnside is not her real name. I decided to use an alias to protect her virtue.
** This famous saying is a Carolee classic but must only be used in conjunction with the suggested hand motions
***Classes at Roseville Public are referred to by their year followed by the first letter of the teacher’s name. 1B thus stands for Year One-Mrs. Burnside.
Family Not-So-Fun Fact:
We have been evicted. The landlord wants his land back by then end of November. It’s going to be an interesting Christmas. Maybe I can find a nice stable to give birth in. Looking forward to the life lessons that are coming my way. Or that’s what I am telling myself in between sobs. No really. I am okay. Not really. No, really, I am. Sort of. Hopefully this situation will get funny soon too.