I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, NEVER work with ROTC again.

The Senior Awards Dinner Banquet was last night.  DS cooked 15 full trays of food and served 350 guests.  As I expected, I had to work.  I was supposed to present the National Honor Society Scholarships last night so I came home from school, dropped off Jake and Steven and changed clothes.   Went with a slight heel and brocade jacket.  Should have thought that one out…it was hot in the building.  The air goes off at 3:30 and things were definitely getting warm by 5:30.  I wore a rather clingy sleeveless cami blouse and didn’t feel comfortable without the jacket.  I was sweaty and uncomfortable with the heavy brocade.

I arrived to a panic because they couldn’t locate the dinner menues I’d printed and given to the senior counselor.  Finally discovered that someone had locked them in the safe because the menues were also the dinner tickets and they wanted to keep them from being given out to uninvited guests.  The teacher who was supposed to be organizing our student helpers didn’t have a clue about what needed to be done and I was down in the dining area supervising the placement of tables, chairs, flower arrangements, candles, placemats, plastic dinnerware, etc.  The teachers who were supposed to be in the kitchen helping DS were called “servers/kitchen helpers” and were sitting at a table in the cafeteria enjoying iced tea and chatting.  They were supposed to be following DS’s orders but when he asked them to plate salads and set up the drink station and the entree tables, they told him they were told they were just there to dish up the entrees when diners came to eat.  He didn’t feel comfortable ordering them around so I took the helm and got them going. Thank God my oldest DS was helping out in the kitchen or we would have had major problems. He was working right along beside his younger brother even though he wasn’t being paid. It was hectic and chaotic and I was acutely aware of how much needed to be done in a short amount of time.  Everyone pitched in but they defintely needed a chief to help them figure out the big picture.

By then, I was being summoned to the theatre to give out scholarships and I stood at the podium in front of 350 assorted seniors, parents, colleagues and guest speakers in my jazzy brocade jacket with sweat trickling down my back and running between my butt cheeks.  My hair was damp and curly from the heat of the kitchen and I was keenly aware of sweat on my upper lip and hair line.  Guess I should be grateful that it wasn’t running down my nose.

I saw DH, Andrew and my oldest DS in the audience and saw that they had saved me a chair but I exited the theatre as soon as I gave out my awards and headed back downstairs to the dining area and kitchen to check on dinner preparations.  We have a very large lobby off the cafeteria and the lobby was set up with dining tables.  Guests would be served salads, drinks and desserts in the dining area and would only enter the cafeteria for a short period of time to go to the appropriate table (baked ziti, chicken primavera, or some kind of vegetarian pasta dish), and be handed a plate with entree and warm garlic bread by our teacher-servers.  They would enter on one side, grab their entree and exit on the other side to reenter the lobby.  DS was running the show in the kitchen and I was running back and forth to tell him that we needed another tray of ziti or more bread and he’d send it out.  It really went pretty well but I didn’t sit down for a minute and was deeply regreting my heels, modest as they were.

Finally, things began to slow down, guests began leaving and the clean-up began in earnest. We had plenty of kids to help with cleanup and plenty of adults to supervise them.  I was totally shot and sat down in the cafeteria with a couple of teacher friends to finally eat when Major came in cutting up with a couple of ROTC cadets.  I was shocked when he threw a piece of cake at one of them and they threw another piece back.  He countered with a glass of lemonade and a few more cadets joined in a food fight.  Three or four glasses of lemonade were splashed on kids and six or eight slices of cake were thrown around before I jumped up and started advancing on the scene.  Major ran out the door with cadets in close pursuit and I yelled at him that he’d better get a mop and broom and start cleaning up.

I went in the kitchen and DS ordered me to go home.  No argument there. I was totally exhausted, hot and uncomfortable.  He had things pretty well squared away in the kitchen so I took off my heels and walked barefoot out to my car. 

I arrived home at 10:15 and headed out to the spa.  I had just settled in with a glass of wine when DH brought my cell phone out to me.  It was DS.  He was pissed!  He was ready to head out the door and, when he left the kitchen, he discovered that the cafeteria was still trashed.  None of the tables had been cleaned, the floor wasn’t cleaned and the lemonade and cake from the food fight had been trampled and tracked all over the cafeteria and everyone had gone home.  He was the only person there.  He was calling to ask me how to find one of the custodians and what he should do. 

I told him to walk out and come home.  He was NOT hired to clean the cafeteria and he was NOT responsible for cleaning up after an ROTC food fight. 

About that time, he found a custodian and told me he’d be home soon.  He wasn’t…it was almost midnight when he got home because the custodian freaked out and he stuck around to help her clean the cafeteria.

I woke up this morning and could barely walk after being on my feet for 15 solid hours yesterday so I had a breakfast of coffee and Aleve.  I sent out an email to the ROTC Booster Club parent to remind her to bring me the receipt when she delivered the food for field day today so I could write her a check.

I got to school and planned on working in my room until 9:30 or so before I joined the ROTC kids out at the baseball field/picnic area for field day activities. 

At 8:30, Sarge sent one of the kids up to see me to deliver the message that he hadn’t been able to get the propane tank filled for the grill.  Are you kidding me???  That was his only assignment.  Get the propane filled.  I called him and told him he’d better do something or I’d be grilling 200 hot dogs and 150 burgers on his ass.  He sent another kid up at 8:45 to tell me that he’d been able to get a grill but he didn’t have any charcoal.  Poor kid.  I couldn’t very well kill the messenger so I sent him back downstairs to tell Sarge he’d better figure out a solution or he’d be buying pizza for 100 cadets. 

About that time, Johna showed up.  One of the more reliable parents who had volunteered to help.  I sent her downstairs and Sarge sent her out on a mission to get the propane tank filled.  It was 9:00 by then and I was beginning to get concerned because the parent who was bringing the chips, cookies, plates, cups, napkins and potato salad hadn’t answered my email and hadn’t arrived yet although she was supposed to be there at 8:30.  I called her and got a message that “the number you have called has been disconnected”.  Not a good sign. 

I headed out to the baseball field in my car because the Aleve wasn’t really doing much for my ankles and found Major having another food fight with cadets. He was running around dousing several of the kids with the bottled water I’d purchased and the kids were shaking up the soft drinks I bought, popping the tops, and spraying each other with them.  I mean, what is it with this guy???  Is he going through male menopause or a second childhood or what? 

I went over to Sarge and he told me that the cadet whose mother was supposed to be bringing the rest of the food and supplies was absent.  I told him I’d tried to call and gotten a disconnect message.  We both looked at each other and I said, “Sh*t!  I guess this means we don’t have any plates, cups, napkins, cookies or chips.  I’ll go get them.” 

I turned to walk back to my car and heard Major bellowing, “Dammit!  Who squirted the f*cking mustard all over me.  I want to know who did it!!!” 

I was shocked!  I couldn’t believe he’d said that.  He was absolutely covered in mustard.  The kids had taken the food fight over the top by grabbing the big huge mustard and ketchup bottles I’d purchased and I was appalled at the amount of damage.  Kids were covered in ketchup and mustard and Major looked like he had at least a quart of mustard splattered all over his back. 

Quite frankly, it did my soul good.  I was looking at a scene straight out of Animal House.  The pavement was covered in squashed soft drink cans, exploded water bottles, mustard, ketchup and water balloons.  The kids were staring at Major like deer in the headlights.  They knew they’d gone too far but I didn’t blame them at all.  Major had started the whole thing and gotten them all worked up and he’d not only let them do it, he’d encouraged them.  I couldn’t help thinking about how I’d scoured the ads in the paper to find the best buys on hot dogs, burgers, buns, ketchup, mustard, bottled water, soft drinks and other picnic items to save the Booster Club a few bucks.  Couldn’t help thinking about all the hours I’d spent selling candy and hot dogs and manning booths at fairs and community events to raise money for the Booster Club.  I thought about how I’d divided up the shopping list between myself and another parent to keep the costs to a minimum so I could pick up all the stuff on sale at Kroger and she could go to GFS.  I just took a good look, turned around, and kept walking.

I drove up to GFS and picked up 200 plates, 150 cups, 4 cases of assorted chips, 5 cases of individually packaged cookies and 300 napkins.  My blood was boiling because I’d had to leave school to pick up supplies that another parent had volunteered to get. It wasn’t like I’d coerced her or begged her.  I’d sent out an email asked for help from the Booster Club parents and she’d responded.  I was rushing as fast as I could and I tried to carry 2 cases of chips to my car at a time.  They weren’t that heavy but they were big and awkward and I couldn’t see where I was going.  I tripped over the curb, chips went flying and I fell to my knees.  I threw out my hands to catch myself and wound up with two badly skinned and bloody knees, scraped the palms of both hands and broke my big toe.  I just sat there for a minute and felt the tears welling up.  I sat there in the parking lot and thought “This is too much.  I’m done.  I’m finished.  I’m not doing this anymore.” 

I spent a good minute or two just sitting there between my car and another, two cases of chips and a baskart full of plates and cups and cried.  I finally picked myself up, threw all the sh*t in my car and drove back to school.  I arrived to find out that Major had taken half the cadets back to the classroom to spend the day writing apology letters to him.  We no longer had 100 kids to feed, we were down to 50 or so.  Johna was manning the grill and another parent had shown up to help.  She was placing burgers and hot dogs on buns and wrapping them in foil sheets.  Sarge was playing volleyball with some of the remaining cadets and I got a few of them to help me unload the car.

I found a place on the bleachers and set about cleaning and examining my battered knees.  Some of the kids hovered around me like little protectors offering sympathy and assistance. I had told my 4th and 5th period students to come to the field to join the cadets for field day and I was quiet and calm and thoughtful.  I watched them and thought about Ling Wu. 

Ling is one of my students.  He’s Vietnamese.  His parents went to Alabama to find work in January and left him and his 14 year old brother here in Louisville.  They paid the rent and left Ling $300 and said they would send for him and his brother after school was out.  Ling Wu is 18 so they’re not breaking the law but his English is somewhat limited and he’s been doing a lot of walking because he can’t afford bus fare and he and his brother eat a lot of ramen noodles.  He never complains.  He’s polite, hard-working and thrilled to be graduating.  He has dreams of going to college.  His grades are good enough and some of the teachers have been working with him to help him get financial aid.  His clothes are always clean but he didn’t have any dress clothes for the award ceremony last night or graduation so a bunch of us teachers donated money and one of the counselors took him shopping.  He was so proud last night.  His smile lit up the room.  I was talking to him after the ceremony last night and he smiled his beautiful smile and asked me if I liked his clothes.  I told him he looked very handsome and asked him if his parents were coming home for his graduation.  He told me they weren’t.  I asked him if he was going to any graduation parties and he told me he had to go straight home to watch his brother.  I invited him to join my family at Steven’s graduation party and he was delighted.  I told him we would go by his apartment and pick up his little brother after graduation and take them both home after the party.  He was really excited.  He didn’t ask, but I made sure he went home with several carryout containers of leftover food last night. 

I just kept sitting there on the bleachers.  Watching my students and watching Ling.  He was so excited to be out of class, sitting out there in the sunlight on the bleachers.  Eating hot dogs and burgers.  Smiling at everyone and everything.  All the kids love him but he doesn’t seem to have any close friends.  I wonder why.  His smile lights up the room and he’s very generous with it.  Maybe the kids just have a hard time understanding his language or his situation but they really seem to care about him.  When they called him to the stage last night for some academic awards, the kids started clapping and chanting, “Wu! Wu! Wu!”

Sometimes the kids know what’s important.  Not always, but sometimes.

I had told my 5th period kids that they could join in on the ROTC field day today and have a bite to eat and then help with the clean-up.  Instead, I let them eat and, when it was time to clean up all the ketchup and mustard and water balloons and squashed soft drink cans, I called all my kids over and told them we were going back inside.  When we got back inside, I called down to the ROTC classroom and told the cadet who answered the phone to tell Major that he could take the cadets back out to the softball field to clean up.

I’m done.  Steven graduates in a few days and I don’t have any more reason to help ROTC except that the cadets and Sarge and Major keep telling me they’re not going to let me go.  Of course they don’t want me to go.  I’ve worked like a dog for them for four years but I’m really finished with that gig.  I think you blew it, guys.  I’d rather look for another Wu.


Joy says 28th May @ 6:49

OH MY GOODNESS you have been to He– and back !
Major sounds like an overgrown child!
However it is students like Wu that make it all worth it. He truly values his education, learning, takes joy in life, and all of his blessings. Those are they types of students that you always want to go the extra mile for.
Have a nice weekend.
Rest up, sit in the spa, relax, sleep in, and enjoy your family.

Joy says 28th May @ 6:49

When do you want to start this chickie?? I am in as of Wednesday. 🙂

susan says 28th May @ 8:15

Wu! Wu! Wu!
I want to yell for Wu too 😀 God bless him.

You! You! You!
You deserve your own cheer, my dear. What a poignant post. What would we do without the Patty’s in this world to save the day? Thanks for all you do for the kiddos.

brseay says 7th June @ 21:46

Unbelieveable! It always drives me crazy when the adults get the kids riled up and then get pissed when it gets out of control. Good for you for making them clean it up and a huge thumbs up for not going back next year. Now just make sure you follow through!

And I’m so happy that one of the final memories you have of this school year is of Wu. It’s kids like that who make it all worthwhile. And I’m betting years from now he’ll remember the wonderful teacher who made his graduation so special. You are remarkable 🙂

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