When it was all over for the morning, I stopped in my guest bathroom for two and a half seconds, because that’s all I had, and looked at myself. I was shinier than wet copper and not nearly as pretty to look at. I had been running and hauling and toting and carrying for 4 hours in 94° heat. If I’m being 100% forthcoming, I sweat like a soccer goalie even when I’m under an air vent and only trying to do math. It doesn’t take a lot. Add hauling and ridiculous heat and suddenly I look like something out of Harry Potter. I sweat. I sweat a lot.
What follows is a dark, stream-of-consciousness tale. It is stream-of-consciousness because my consciousness only streams right now. It cannot organize. I’m hoping this will right itself with a single decent night’s sleep and the lack of anywhere to be on a summer morning. And the tale is dark because the popcorn machine was there.
My partner in this dark tale has a name, but for our purposes will be called Squats McGee. That will make more sense shortly.
Squats has been a partner for a long time, years even, because our girls are bffs and because elementary school PTAs have to collect their pound of flesh. Our flesh collection often happened at the same events. We have been together even when we didn’t want to be. But the last week of school, we were inseparable.
On Wednesday of last week, we had a closet full of décor to move from the school’s PTA room to the rec center’s gym next door. I know next door sounds easy enough, but the drive distance wasn’t our real challenge. The true challenge was in the items to be moved and in the fact that they were stacked in that closet like raccoon traps. On top of that, I’ve already mentioned my sweating problem. On the way out my back door that morning, I realized I had forgotten deodorant and rooted through my children’s shoe bins in our mudroom to find some. I came up with only a teen boy’s Axe, which smells like a male armpit in a fancy steak restaurant on a first date. My daughter was strangely attracted to me when I jumped in the car to drive her.
That was 7:15 a.m. And I am off topic.
At least an hour past my deodorant’s application, after pulling most of the décor out of the closet, Squats said, “Hey, we need to get the big Oscar statues from the very back.” It made sense that the big statues would be in the very back. That way, you would definitely die trying to get them. I was already deep in the room, so I reached for the first one and hoisted it toward her. It was taller than most of the cast of Beverly Hills 90210, but lighter than expected. I guessed it was made of plywood.
“This isn’t an Oscar statue,” I said.
“Yes, it is,” she argued, because she’s nicer and more accepting than I am.
“Then what are the weird little prongs coming out of its head? Oscar statues are bald. A real Oscar has two things going for it: good pecks and a nicely shaped head. These things have neither.”
The prop had four weird nubs on its head. Like antennae. Or Buckwheat braids. It wasn’t until much later that I noticed the statue was holding a downward-pointing sword instead of crossing its arms like an Oscar statue. Days later, I am still bewildered by these props. It’s keeping me up at night. Did they mean it to be a crown? Who carved it? What was the sword supposed to be doing? I want to understand.
“I don’t know. Get over it. Why does it matter?”
“I just think it’s not an Oscar statue.”
“Listen, Linda,” she said. I didn’t know why she was calling me Linda. It was the first of many Linda references during the day. I’ve since learned that there’s an internet sensation named Mateo that was trying to bully his mother into cupcakes. His mother’s name was Linda. She didn’t have it under control. Neither did I.
With the Nubbie swordmen standing awkwardly next to our vehicles, we decided to retrieve the massive PTA coolers from the cafeteria that we’d need for the following morning. On the way back out to our cars, I noticed that my partner was struggling with hers.
“What’s going on there, sparky? You’re walking funny.” She looked over her shoulder, but kept walking.
“I did 60 squats yesterday in my workout. I’m feeling it today.”
“Why would you voluntarily do 60 squats the day before you had to set up a 5th grade banquet?” I asked. It was a fair question. She answered it with, “Listen, Linda” so I had to let it go.
We had the coolers. We had bins of décor. We had statues. That looked like everything.
“Oh,” Squats said, turning the key back in the lock to reopen the closet. “We have to get the popcorn machine.”
I narrowed my eyes, channeling Linda.
“NO,” I said. “Not that popcorn machine. Someone else signed up for that.”
“But we have to move it there so she can do the popping,” she said.
“I said I would never touch it again,” I countered. “I told you what happened last time.” The bruising had just disappeared. Like 5 minutes ago. Squats sighed deep in her chest and stopped multitasking long enough to make focused eye contact with me.
“We have to move this with the rest of the stuff. It’s going to be fine.”
At least she didn’t call me Linda.
And with that, we were off. We had everything loaded but the popcorn machine, which we wheeled back into the closet temporarily. I didn’t see the point in locking it away. Who would steal that guillotine?
When we finished moving the Oscar statues, we headed to my house to get the golf cart. I had decided that the best way to move the popcorn machine was on the back of the golf cart. Upright. The idea itself was a little bit genius, especially for me. The back seat folded down like a truck bed and I had a bucket full of bungee cords. But in order to transport it on the back of the golf cart, we had to lift it up there.
And that required doing squats.
While carrying a 500 pound popcorn machine that was booby trapped with oversized wheels and magnetized doors that never stay shut.
We both got down low, with one hand under the belly of the machine and one hand on the handle. I wasn’t sure once we got down there if Squats would ever get up again, but she was willing to try.
“You got it?” I asked. “You ready?”
“I’m ready,” she said. “On three.”
“Oh boy,” I said, as the top started teetering.
“Hold up, hold up,” Squats called out with a mayday tone. “Put it down.”
We went back down, which proved almost harder than picking it up.
On the third try, we got the wheels up over the back of the golf cart and tied that sucker down like it was joining the Navy SEALS. I only took a door to the head twice before I strapped that down too.
There were speed bumps, sidewalks, curbs, hills, and uneven terrain in the 200 yards we had to drive the popcorn machine. It would be another 26 hours before I had to load it back onto the golf cart and return it to the school.
The entire ordeal was two full days of set up and management that began and ended with popcorn. As I was hoisting Ol’ Pappy back off the cart with the help of two high school boys, Squats spoke up, almost offhandedly, in the middle of another task.
“You know, we probably should have just removed the top and transported it in two pieces.”
I felt my world go black and colorless. My ears started ringing and my throat was drier than a 4-year-old’s Pull-Up.
“It comes OFF?!” I said in disbelief.
“Yeah,” she answered over her shoulder as she grabbed a cooler.
It comes off. What a kick in the knickerbockers.
I learned a few things that last week of school:
I learned that kids don’t know what an Oscar statue looks like.
I learned that elementary school teachers work harder than any other profession on the planet.
I learned that bungee cords are magical.
I learned that sometimes you can’t love the punk out of the punk kid.
I learned that Billy Ray Cyrus is going to keep reinventing himself until I am dead and he will never go away.
I learned that PTA moms are a pretty great breed, but that it feels amazing to take a final bow and walk away.
I learned that I love summer.
And I learned that I hate popcorn.
I hate popcorn.