Last year, one of the mothers at my kids’ preschool asked if I might be interested in co-chairing the school carnival. Why this woman thought of me, I have no idea. My former school volunteer experience consisted of hosting a parent coffee at my house and driving two kids besides my own to a class field trip. But I must have been feeling particularly competent that day, because for some unfathomable reason, I said yes. I mean, what’s one more full time job on top of being a mom and writing a book, right? It’s like kids. Once you have two of them, adding a few more is no big deal, or so they say. And, in fact, it really hasn’t been too bad. I kind of like being involved, and knowing the people in charge of stuff, and it’s fun to pretend that I’m one of those moms who does things like bake organic cookies from scratch, or drive carpool, or volunteer at their kids’ preschool. Hah.
On Friday, I sent home a letter about the carnival to everyone in the whole school, along with a form that says, “Please return this form along with payment to the carnival box in the main lobby.” I felt good about it. The letter was way better than last year’s. But then on Sunday night at ten o’clock, just as my husband and I were about to watch The Apprentice episode that we had Tivoed earlier that evening, it occurred to me that there was no carnival box in the main lobby. So, I set about to make one. My plan was simple: a shoebox, Elmer’s gel glue, some construction paper, and the words, “Carnival Box.” It would be easy. It would take me twenty minutes.
Cut to: three hours later. I am covered in Elmer’s glue. My husband is asleep with the television on and the remote control in his left hand. There are construction paper scraps all over my kitchen counter, and I have cut myself with the X-acto knife that I was using to make the slit in the top of the box. And the box – well, the box sucks. The construction paper isn’t sticking to it, and the edges that I tried to glue together are completely uneven. It looks like my two year old made it. I briefly contemplated whether this was acceptable, and decided that it was not. I couldn’t live down the shame of admitting that I was the maker of such a hideous box. And so I decided that I would need to start over, this time with wrapping paper. But I was still, at this point, under the delusion that I am the kind of mom who has things like extra rolls of wrapping paper lying around the house, when, of course, I am no such kind of mom. I did, however, have one piece of blue tissue paper and one piece of white sparkly tissue paper left over from Hanukkah, and so I decided to go with that.
Cut to: another hour later. The box is covered with tissue paper, and the slit looks remotely even. But I failed to realize that huge gobs of Elmer’s gel glue would seep through the white sparkly tissue paper, and that it would dry looking exactly like huge gobs of Elmer’s gel glue and not like white sparkly tissue paper. So I printed out some clip-art of carnival masks and confetti-things on orange construction paper, cut them out and used to them to cover the most giant glue gobs, and ended up with another box that sucked, but at least this one looked like my four year-old made it, and she takes an art class, so I figured it was a step up.
When the other moms saw my box, they laughed, and it occurred to me that perhaps I hadn’t been fooling them. One suggested that maybe she should take care of the arts and crafts projects from now on. I think they could tell that I was embarrassed by my box, and so they tried to make me feel better. They acknowledged that yes, perhaps I was missing the arts and crafts gene, but then they reminded me that I did write one hell of a letter. And so I feel a little bit better, but I told them, when it comes time to volunteer for the bake sale, I’m out.