When my daughters were young, one of their favorite books was “Sonya’s Mommy Works”. Here’s a synopsis from goodreads. It’s a great book, by the way. If there’s anyone in your life under the age of, say, nine or ten, I highly recommend getting it for them.
My parents were not like Sonya’s. They were great parents (we even had a summer house!), and I loved them, but they were not cool. They were not young. And instead of traveling to far-flung locations like Sonya’s mother, no, my mother worked in the principal’s office at my elementary school.
For my mother, it was a great job. She had the same hours as I did, of course, and the school was within walking distance. But if I’d written a book about it, the title would have been “My Mommy Works to Torture Me.”
Telling the Truth
My parents were very big on telling the truth, and I’ve always prided myself on honesty, so I’ll be honest now. Having my mother work at the school sucked. There were 500 students, and I swear that if I so much as dropped a gum wrapper, somehow, she saw me. I used to think (actually, I still do) that she had either installed hidden cameras or possessed some sort of magical powers that allowed her, Super-mom like, to see around corners, through brick walls, and leap through the space/time continuum to catch me misbehaving.
Most of my transgressions were of the minor variety, until third grade, when I involved myself in a caper that haunts me to this day.
We are 100% Greek. I actually spoke Greek before I spoke English; my first words were “I see it!” (το βλέπω, if you must know). It’s pronounced “Too Vlee-eh-poh” – kind of. By third grade, I’d lost most of my ability to speak Greek, and since then, it hasn’t improved.
That year, a new transfer student from Greece arrived at the school; he was “right off the boat,” as my family would say, although I have no idea what mode of transport his family used to get here. The reason I have no idea how they got here is because, of course, we had a language barrier; he couldn’t speak any English and I spoke very little Greek.
Mommy Works Here: Don’t Lie on Your Job Application
I didn’t have a job, of course (unless you count the ironing). What the school had, however, was the set of papers we’d filled out at the beginning of the school year, which included a question about whether you spoke any other languages. Given what was apparently my highly exaggerated estimation of my own Greek skills, I’d confidently represented myself as someone who could be called upon in the unlikely event that we got a new student from Greece during the school year. The idea was that I could be this kid’s “buddy.”
The new student arrived for his first day and met with the principal and, of course, his secretary, my mother, because, Greek! The principal looked through the files to find a student buddy for the new arrival, and there I was, in all my dishonest glory.
You might think that my mother would have explained the situation to the principal. You’d be wrong. I bet Sonya’s mother would have. Nope, not my mother. She saw a perfect opportunity to teach me once and for all about the importance of telling the truth, with a little Fear Factor thrown in for good measure.
I was summoned to the principal’s office to meet the new student. I have no idea what his name is, but we’ll call him “Nick”, since 80% of Greek boys are named “Nick.” Not really, but it’s a safe guess. Nick looked nervous and excited; the principal, grateful; my mother, triumphant.
I, on the other hand, looked…horrified. At least, I assume I did. If I didn’t, I should have. The principal greeted me effusively and said, “Dawne! We have a new student from GREECE! His name is Nick. You’re going to be his buddy, since you speak Greek.”
If I’d known the Greek words for “sorry, I’m dropping out,” I would have uttered them. I did know that “το βλέπω” was inappropriate. Having run through my repertoire of Greek, I stammered, in English, “Um…um…”
Not Off the Hook
My mother wasn’t about to let me off the hook. I bet Sonya’s mother would have helped Sonya out. Finally, I composed myself, told the truth, and apologized to the principal. Nick looked crestfallen.
I have no idea if Nick ever found a buddy; I dropped out. Not really. But I never put “fluent in Greek” on any piece of paper ever again. ⧉