Yes, politics affect us all, even at the PTA level. So “Crystal,” the co-dinner organizer for this week’s conference dinners, emailed me and the PTA Prez early yesterday and said she had ordered pizza and salad for last night’s dinner, what time it would be there and the total, and said she wouldn’t be able to get there to help me until “at least 6,” and that she wouldn’t be able to stay long because her conferences for her kids were at 7 and 7:15, but that she’d be able to help break things down and put everything away, like on Monday. The whole thing has to be set up and ready to serve by 3:15, so this was not a lot of help, but that’s fine. Now that I knew what to do, I was more comfortable handling it alone. And some of the other PTA board ladies are always around as well, especially with those working at the book fair, handling market day pickup, and the one lady who decorates ALL THE THINGS, all the time. I got there at about 12:30 and crammed down my lunch and went about setting everything up – dragging tables into place and setting them up, cart after cart from the office and storage closet to bring out all the pop, water, the donated desserts, the leftover fruit in the fridge from Monday’s dinner, all the paper products, cups, coffee maker, tablecloths, decorations, everything. With a decent night’s sleep the night before, a lot of coffee and a healthy lunch, I had good energy to do it all, and had remembered to bring my crocs to wear – there is a reason Mario wears these every day and it ain’t just because he likes the way they look. My feet were so much better off at the end of the night. Still sore, but nowhere near as bad as Monday.
PTA Prez showed up around 1:30 and said I was totally right to leave when I did Monday, there were plenty of people that helped Crystal put everything away and I had gotten there early and such, it was no problem at all. I told her I’d gotten a vibe from Crystal that she was mad I was leaving and she said so what, who cares, you did a lot more work than she did both before she got here and while she was here, since you put 80% of it away before you left anyway. She said if I wanted to do the same thing again, that would only be fair, especially since Crystal wasn’t going to show up until super late, and said once I went to my son’s conference at 6, I could just leave right after that.
Various other PTA ladies showed up. The treasurer, who showed me how to apply for reimbursement for the ice I bought Monday, and who wrote a check for the pizza. The previous conference dinner planner, who helped out with a couple of things like making the coffee, which takes like a half hour as it’s in this big industrial sized tureen. The market day lady, who knows the pizza shop manager, and called to make sure they would take a check and to verify the amount. I also helped the book fair lady get her stuff into her area, since she is pregnant, and the others helped her set up as well, while I got my dinner area all set up. I whipped that shit into shape in like 2 hours, it was awesome. By the time the pizza arrived, I was completely ready and the first teachers started coming in not 5 minutes later so I was pretty proud of myself. They were all asking where Crystal was and several said they didn’t know who she was and had never met her, because she’s never even come to any of the PTA meetings. Some were surprised that she wasn’t there helping but they all said I clearly didn’t need her help since I was doing a great job and they’d never seen it set up so quickly before. Yay, me.
Then it was all a blur. Getting more pop and water and ice and throwing away pizza boxes as they emptied and cutting up desserts and serving them and combining salad trays and getting everyone through the line. I went to the office to make sure the ladies in there got food, and the extended care ladies as well. More coffee, and then before I knew it, it was like 5:30. The PTA board ladies were in and out all night with my event, book fair and market day as well as attending their own kid’s conferences. When D’s Dad picked him up, I let them come in and get D some pizza since we had plenty of it and the other PTA moms were letting their kids eat there as well. D was acting like a spaz and was overtired and began to whine and race around like a lab rat in a caffeine study when his Dad said it was time to leave, and then started shrieking and freaking out. His Dad doesn’t handle situations like this well as he gets embarrassed and tries to deal with the situation verbally, in ways that really don’t work either for him or for D. I tried to let him handle it because it’s his week with D and they were leaving together, but it really was starting to get embarrassing, even though everyone’s kid acts like a jerk sometimes. Finally I just went over, grabbed D’s backpack and started walking towards the door. He was screaming and carrying on because his Dad had said he couldn’t take the two bags of chips home he wanted to take because he had misbehaved, but he followed me, chips in hand, because that’s what they do. Finally outside and away from prying eyes, I handed the backpack to his Dad, quickly but forcefully wrestled the chips out of his little grasp and then said, “Bye D, I love you,” while he was screaming, “I DON’T LIKE YOU!” I turned around as I walked away and he was looking at me while shrieking and having his tantrum and I smiled and waved and he also waved, even in the middle of his tantrum. It’s like he wanted to be nice, he just couldn’t. Poor thing was tired. His Dad texted me later and admitted I do handle things like that better than he does and thanked me, which was nice.
By the time I went back in, it was almost 6 and time for my conference, so the Prez and another PTA board lady said they would hold down the fort. Most of the teachers had been in by this time so there wasn’t much to do but hang out. I swung by the custodian’s office before I went to the conference and told him to please come take the rest of the pizza away and any desserts he wanted, as we were packing things up soon and he was welcome to anything that was left. I could see it was nice that someone thought of him, and I felt good about that.
When I came back in the room, four of the PTA board members were in there, and nobody else. When I entered, they stopped talking and looked at me. I stopped cold. “What?” I said, a little nervous. “Check your texts” said the former conference dinner planner. “I don’t have any,” I said, looking at my phone. Turns out Crystal apparently texted me, only she had the number wrong and texted the former planner instead, and said she wasn’t going to be able to help out after all. At all. “That fucking bitch,” I said, and they all cracked up. “She is SO one of us,” said the market day organizer. They all said it was ok, they would all help me put everything away. I said I had better not see her again or I might punch her in the throat and they were just dying laughing. You can’t kick someone off of a volunteer position, but the Prez said she would be declining any offer she would get from Crystal to help with anything from now on, including the spring conference dinners, for which she would try to recruit some other help. Crystal’s name was also going on “the list,” which is a list of people who volunteered to do things and then fucked them up, either by not showing up or not doing anywhere near what they were supposed to do.
We buzzed around putting stuff away. I was really tired but it wasn’t the end of the world. Market day lady said she has a wine cellar in her basement and invited me over after we got everything put away to have some wine, which I took a rain check on. There was yet another one of the board members in the teacher’s lounge when I went in there to dump the coffee, and she was telling me a similar story about something that happened to her on an event she planned.
I was carrying the coffee urn to the storage locker when I realized something. I’m sure I’ll get made fun of for saying this, but it really meant something to me and while it seemed like such a small thing, it was kind of big for me. So please don’t make fun.
I realized that I never expected that the PTA ladies wouldn’t like me. Despite what I’d heard about them being a clique or whatever, the very first night I met them, I expected most of them to like me. Sure, some people don’t like me, everyone doesn’t like someone and I know I can be a bitter pill to swallow, with my loud, foul mouth and attitude that doesn’t pull any punches. But some people also find that directness refreshing, and I’ve got a lot of friends, which is a good feeling. I thought about how I got invited to this lady’s house for wine, and how I got invited to the ugly Christmas sweater party another one of them is having next week, and how it all seemed normal to me, because why wouldn’t they like me? I’m actually NOT unlikeable, which is how I felt most of the time growing up in my small town, because so many people I went to school with didn’t like me.
And then I realized it: they were just wrong. They were wrong about me. It wasn’t that I was an asshole or a bitch or crazy, or that I was “too much” of anything that would make someone want to be my friend, it’s that they were wrong. I can be a good friend, and I’m a nice person. I help out, I can be funny, I’m a good Mom, and am someone that people actually like being around, and they were just fucking wrong and that’s amazing.