When I joined the PTA, I didn’t just sign up for the org but wanted to be part of the board, or as close to it as I could get as an incoming member. The best way to do this was to take on one of the projects for the year – to be in charge of planning and organization of the event or campaign, and then run it. The women who run monthly programs like the Market Day fundraiser or the box tops program are amazing to me. The amount of time and commitment they put into these things blows my mind. And then there are huge events, like the fall festival, or the spring carnival, or the month-long fall fundraiser, which drives PTA funds for the whole year. I signed up to handle the “conference dinners,” four dinners, two in the fall, two in the spring, for 50+ staff at the school the evening of parent-teacher conferences. As I had never done it before and the previous organizer was unavailable this year, they gave me a co-planner. Another Mom who also works full time and who also just joined the PTA and hadn’t done this before. So you can imagine how that’s been going, ha.
Things got super confusing in the planning stages with both of us trying to do things and only having time to communicate via email. We finally decided that she would plan the dinners (let’s call her Crystal), and I would show up and run the dinners, since I was able to take half a day off for all the dinners, and she couldn’t come until much later in the afternoon. The food had to be set up and ready to go by 3:30, but no later than 4 as many teachers came right in when the school day ended and had conferences starting at 4:15.
Crystal had managed to convince the Olive Garden they should donate spaghetti and salad and breadsticks to our cause, which was pretty generous of them. Working on almost no budget, we solicited donations in the weeks prior from the various school grades; pop and water, plasticware, plates, napkins, desserts. Everything came in yesterday and during the morning, a couple of the SAHM PTA moms who are always at the school moved most of the donations into the corner of the lunchroom where the dinners would get set up. When I got there around 12:30, I was racing around like a mad woman to figure out where everything should go. Ran to the custodian’s room and they came out and helped move and set up the tables. Ran and got the PTA president and she helped with tablecloths and what goes where. Back and forth from the office and the storage closet like 100 times with cases of water and pop and big bowls and serving spoons and cups and and and. I couldn’t help but think back to the years I worked at a certain chain restaurant and was always the opener, brewing all the coffee and decaf, setting up the gladiolas on the islands, getting the blocks of reggiano parm and graters set in bowls with cloth napkins for handling at the end of each island, walking the dining room to make sure the tables were all geometrically lined up, no dirty butcher paper, S&P and sugar caddies all facing the same direction. Duck outside for a quick smoke while the gallons of ice tea brewed, then dig through the dish area for iced tea spoons, wash and dry them and get them placed. Cop a feel in the walk-in with whatever line cook or sous chef I was currently involved with. You know, typical restaurant morning. Except the game is all changed now. I’m middle aged, my kid is over there lining up at the wall to go into the gym and we wave to each other, and I’m sweating under my proper “nice Mom” sweater, my hair too long for my age swinging everywhere and trying not to swear around the 3rd graders, who have the last lunch period of the day. I had to run out and buy ice, like that time I had to drive to Sysco to buy frozen calamari.
All of this is the payment due on the extra eye the Moms held out for my son during his first week at school, during which he cried every single day. The PTA President got to know my son pretty well those days, and would talk to him about his Mom that he missed while he was waiting in line. The other moms know him too, and knew how panicked I was those first few days, him being in this giant school. And now comes the payment, which I was happy to make, and grateful to have relevant life experience such that I whipped that fucking dinner area into shape in about 2.5 hours. The tablecloths didn’t match, but they were clean. The bags of chips were leftover from Bingo night, but I put them in cute baskets. I cut all 25 of the pies into pieces, brewed the coffee, filled big buckets with ice and soda and water bottles, and probably burned like 600 calories with all the running around.
Crystal showed up around 3, everything was set up and it was time to go get the food, so she did that, and then we worked the dinners, reminding the flow of guests that they could go down both sides, that all the pasta was the same so they didn’t open other foil trays and they would stay warm, suggesting they come back for seconds because we had so much food, and offering them to-go containers to take with them for later. The PTA prez and I took mini water bottles into the gym and placed on on each teacher’s conference table as a small gesture of additional thanks. They all seemed very pleased with what we offered and were very gracious.
I really hit the wall by 7. I had wheeled back and put away all the extra pop and water and shoved all the extra paper supplies into a corner and put a tablecloth over them, and broke down several tables no longer needed. I put leftover fruit in the fridge and took the ice to the freezers. I cleaned up as much as I could and then told Crystal I was beat and going home and she said she was “a little worried” about handling the clean-up of the rest of the items alone. As the opener, I just nodded and said, “I know you’ll get it done,” and left the closing server to handle it.
I came home and surprisingly grateful for cheap Olive Garden food, shoveled it in my tired face and went to bed at 8:30.
The next dinner is tomorrow night.