I pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of the bottom of The Hare’s backpack Wednesday morning.
“What’s this and how long has it been here?” I asked.
Glimpses of kissing red hearts peeked out of one corner. A vague memory that Valentine’s Day was a mere 5 days away suddenly loomed over my head.
“I don’t know,” The Hare responded distractedly, “Maybe last Friday. I think it’s your Valentine Party stuff.”
“My Valentine Party stuff? Don’t you mean your Valentine Party stuff?”
“Yours, mine, whatever. Isn’t it kinda your job?”
Wednesday night I started to make calls. It has been a stellar year for parent participation. We have personally donated more items than collected. My pleas have mostly fallen on deaf ears and a few answering machines. For the first two parties I called every parent on the list to solicit help and donations. I even tried to utilize my years of sales tactics.
“Is there any reason why you couldn’t provide the cheese and crackers for our classroom?”
“What? Didn’t I donate money already? Can’t you just buy them?”
“Can I count on you to help set up at 2:15 on Monday?”
“No. Some of us moms have to work and don’t have the luxury you do to show up for everything.”
By the third party, I was praying that parents would pick up the phone and call me instead, after all, I sent home letters at the beginning of the year letting them know who their room mom was and
begging asking for parents to be on my committee. Although my “title” is party planner, I’m really just a party facilitator. The third grade team of teachers actually planned all the parties, then gave me a list to fulfill. I think a lot of parents think that I came up with these elaborate menus.
I almost started crying when I saw the Valentine Party list:
- Red heart Jello Jigglers
- Ants on a log – peanut butter filled celery with raisins.
- Fruit Kabobs
- Decorated Holiday Cookies
- Red Punch
- Candy/Treat Bags for each student
- Valentine themed paper products and table cloths
My first few calls went as expected, everyone wanted to donate the paper products, no one wanted to make Jello jigglers or fruit kabobs. So I had to take a little more diplomatic approach and make some executive decisions, otherwise there wasn’t going to be much of a party.
Here was the list that I came up with:
- Jello cups
- a bag of carrot sticks and ranch dressing
- whatever fruit you want
- cookies from the grocery store
- juice boxes
It was a menu that the average working family could manage in a short amount of time and then I was only on the hook for the goody bags.
On Valentine’s afternoon, I lost track of time. At 1:45 I realized I hadn’t taken a shower yet or packed the car. I was supposed to start setting up at 2:15.
“Holy Crap!” I yelled to an empty house, jumping in the shower.
Wet hair was pulled tightly into a ponytail, peeking out from under a grey flannel cap. I managed to find a clean black and grey argyle sweater, dark denim trousers and my cute little black and turquoise Sketchers. And of course, a little jewelry bling to distract people from the lack of make-up. As I rushed back and forth from The Hare’s classroom, toting various donations stored in the teacher’s lounge, I couldn’t help but envy the many classrooms full of parent volunteers. The hallways were full of them, milling around, helping children stuff Valentine’s treats into homemade mailboxes. Some of them recognized me and smiled, a few nodded. I couldn’t tell if it was to be friendly or out of pity.
Pity. Definitely Pity.
Only about half of the kids followed the teacher outside while I was supposed to be setting up the party. The other half were still delivering Valentine’s cards to their classmates’ boxes. I tried my best to work around them and the piles of clutter still decorating the desk tops. The task was impossible. Finally I just gave up and designated one table for everything. The kids were going to have to do this “buffet style”. It was a little hectic trying to serve 25 kids in a timely manner. I’ve been trying to eat healthier, for almost a day, but the stress of this crazy party started driving me to eat scads of cookie crumbs off the table. And jello is fat free, right?
The party proceeded until 3:45 and then there was a mad dash to clean up and pile into the coat room to get ready to go home. A few thank you’s were thrown my way, and a big hug from The Hare. But I was exhausted. I think it would have been easier to try and gather a bunch of clucking chickens into their coupe. (It might even have been less messy and quieter).
On my way home, I was wondering why I always led with my heart rather than my head when volunteering for things. Surely if I just said no, someone else would have to say yes.
DW called on his way home from work. Monday and Tuesday nights are always a mess, juggling sports schedules and my rehearsal schedules. He wanted to see if the girls had time to go out on a dinner date with dad for Valentine’s Day.
“Of course,” I answered, a small tone of jealousy in my voice.
My extra-curricular evening activities are starting to get in the way of our precious family time. It was far easier to leave at night when the girls were little and didn’t have so many interests and activities of their own. DW must have sensed my frustration.
“Don’t leave before I get there, okay?” he urged.
When he walked into the kitchen, I couldn’t help but notice a Target bag clutched in his hand.
“I know this isn’t really wrapped, but Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Generally we don’t do gifts for each other, just a card, so my curiosity was peeked. Inside the bag I pulled out a can opener. Really? A can opener?
“I was at Target today and remembered how much trouble our old can opener has been giving you. I thought maybe you’d like a new one.”
Points for paying attention, that’s for sure. And then he handed me his card. The front was beautifully decorated with the word “LOVE”, which has been his pet-name for me since we started dating. Every card DW has ever given me has the word “LOVE” on the front. Not an easy task, I’m sure. But what really got to me, especially after such a frustrating afternoon, was what he wrote on the inside:
Your heart has brightened my life everyday with the love and comfort you give me. Keep letting your heart lead your life so I can follow. I love you.
I guess leading with my heart isn’t such a bad thing afterall.