Cry Mummy! and let slip the poppets of Meghan
Is it Friday already? That must mean it’s America’s Worst Mother™ Day where we pop in on suburban Anglophile Meghan Cox Gurdon and her kids Rosamunde, Sanka, Discordia, and Orc and see what kind of wacky adventures they’re having. So let’s put on our wading boots and peek through the windows, shall we?
When we last left the Gurdon posse they were cruising the hood in their Dodge Caravan, Alpines a-pumpin’, looking to pop a cap in someone’s ass. Somewhere along the way, possibly after daughter Discordia had ThugLife tattooed across her stomach, Meghan decided that the gangster life wasn’t for her, what with the high cost of bling bling in this economy, and wanting to “keep it real, know what I’m sayin’ ” Meghan hustled the kids back to their pied-a-terre in the suburbs.
This week we find Meghan taking in laundry to make ends meet while the two youngest girls, Rosamunde and Sanka ponder careers as exotic dancers at a local preschool strip joint called Tiny Headlights:
“Oh dear, it’s all wet. Better take off your shirt, Violet,” says Phoebe, easily. A year ago, she was just about able to produce a single- syllabled guttural. Now she could do focus groups. I goggle for a moment at her fluency, and then remember the soaking child.
“Okay, Miss Blueberry-face.” Violet obligingly lifts her arms and together we begin to remove the sodden blouse. And of course, there’s her soft tummy, exposed. And of course, I lean down in the classic ambush of doting mothers, and plant a kiss on her side. I am smooching, and Violet is giggling, and the sun is beaming down, and it’s all almost unbearably jolly, when I feel a shower of cool droplets —
At his point, Meghan and the girls are brought up short during their wet t-shirt practice by grim PTA moms who apparently make their living as prison matrons:
“Why, hello down there,” I say bravely.
There is more crunching on the gravel. Several more PTA faces appear, hands wave, and the heavy tread of sensible shoes is heard coming up on the back steps.
“Please come in,” I say.
Our task today is to create, through an intricate and highly reasoned process, place cards for the upcoming gala dinner dance. This will consume the entire afternoon, for these are no run-of-the-mill place cards. That would Easy and therefore Not the PTA Way. Each place cards will bear the diner’s name, his table number and place at the table, his choice of grilled salmon, osso bucco, free-range chicken, or vegetable strudel, and possibly also his blood type, favorite color, and country of ancestral origin. I am a little overwhelmed by the details, perhaps because, in an undertaking of this size, there are so many.
Everyone troops into the dining room, takes a seat at the table, and lays out her paperwork. Violet and Phoebe climb up nimbly and begin unpacking one woman’s handbag.
“Not the cellphone, sweeties,” she says frostily, and though I can hardly blame her, of course I do.
Soberly, everyone gets to work.
“We’ll need at least two pairs of scissors,” one mother tells me a trifle briskly, “And could we please have more light in here?”
“We’re so grateful for all your help, Meghan,” another compensates kindly.
Forced to do hard labor for these domestic harridans, Meghan marvels at what a light-hearted soul she is compared to the dreaded Capable Mothers.
These unsmiling veterans of innumerable school fundraisers are not exactly light company — there is no cracking wise in this crowd (except for me, with tarantula-on-a-slice-of-angel-food success) — but man are they efficient. They have a genius for assembly-line production.
It is terrifying to think that all across America, wherever there are schools, there are squadrons of mothers dragooning other mothers into contributing “a few hours” stuffing envelopes, or persuading them to write checks, or pressing them into phoning yet more mothers to ask them to stuff envelopes, and write checks and make phone calls. It happens in private schools, it happens in public schools. It is probably happening to you. If it did not happen, there would be no Gala Dinners, and then where would we be?
Probably not spending time mixing up pitchers of Harvey Wallbangers and talking on the phone while your children urinate on the classics, but never mind that, because son Orc makes an appearance:
…he is streaked with dirt and his shirt is flapping open on one side where it has torn halfway to his armpit.
“Gosh, Paris, what happened to you?”
He looks up blankly.
“Your shirt, darling. Did something happen?”
“I don’t — Wow! Cool!” he enthuses, discovering the rip. “Now I can make it into sleeping bags for my animals. Just tear it into strips…” and he wanders off into the sitting room, still planning.
Unconcerned that her son has been out fighting again, Meghan discusses with daughter Discordia, the difficulties of writing quality fiction these days when people are so unaccepting of the use of archaic terms like “biffing”, “drat”, “Mummies”, and “roasted fowl”, and really now, what’s a pretentious writer specializing in faux Victorianisms to do?
But then there is a crash in the living room and they all adjourn to see what marvelously clever thing Orc has done now, complete with closing bon mot as the credits roll and we laugh and laugh at these lovable scamps.
Next week: Sanka finds Mummy’s “vibrating buddy” in a bedroom drawer and hilarious hijinks ensue….
(Note: This would have been done a lot earlier this morning if I had’t been called into a meeting.)