The feedback on the microphone whistled through the room. “Uh, testing, uh, will the parent or parents of Simon Rocker please come by the office before the evening is over.” Marge Steward, Principal at Elmhurst Elementary set the old microphone down on the wooden desk.
“What’s Simon done?” Phyllis Schuster, the elementary P.E. teacher leaned against the office door. “That is one strange little boy.”
Marge leaned back in her chair. “Nothing really, but I just wanted to meet these people or at least the one responsible, that is one serious child.” The parent-teacher night had started as a great success. Most of the elementary school parents showed up with sibling in tow. Toward the end of the evening Marge had managed a chance to slip into her office to get off her feet.
“Excuse me.” A voice behind the P.E. teacher squeaked though.
“Oh, excuse me,” said Phyllis, “I’m just leaving.” The P.E. teacher disappeared into the hallway.
“Yes, ma’am?” Marge wheeled back from her desk and stood up. She tried to smile warmly.
“Someone asked for Simon Rocker’s parent to come to the office. I guess that’s me.”
Marge looked over the woman before her. She can’t be over twenty years old. “You’re his parent?”
The woman blushed and tipped her chin. “I’m his guardian, his oldest sister.”
Marge motioned to a chair. “Oldest?”
“Yes, ma’am. Did you want to see me?”
“Uh, how many, uh, I mean, yes I wanted to chat with you. Uh, about Simon.” Marge eased into her desk chair. “I’m Marge Stewart, Principal here.”
“Is he in trouble?”
“Well, no, we just need to chat.”
“Good, that is I’m glad he’s not in trouble. Chat? What about?”
“Just curious, is all. Simon is very quiet; although he speaks to other children, he seems very guarded and serious. Is there something we can help with, uh Miss uh…” Marge’s short psychological training was telling her that maybe there was something of which the school should be aware.
“My name is Julie. I guess I better fill you in a little.”
Marge nervously picked up a pen.
“Here it is in a nut shell. Simon is really my half brother, but he is the youngest. So, when mom split we were kinda left alone. A lady from social services came by and said it was up to me, since I was eighteen at the time.”
“Up to you?”
“Right, I could take the kids, or put them in foster care. That decision was easy. So, I got a job in the deli section of Kroger’s; Bob, my now 20-year-old brother, started work part-time at the Hardware store.” Julie laughed, “Goodwill store is our clothing store. Between the two of us we pay the rent and support the family.”
Marge wrinkled an eye. “Not much to live on.”
“We get by. But, every member of the family has a job. Simon’s job is to go to school and not get fired, or in trouble. Same with his sisters.”
Marge’s curiosity got the best of her. “How many of you …”
Julie interrupted with a laugh, “six others besides Bob and I.” She bit a fingernail. “I get the kids up, breakfast and sack lunches. Bob drives the two oldest to high school on his way to the hardware. I take Simon and his sisters to the church and they deliver them here and pick them up after school.” Julie laughed, “I’m afraid our family is like a bus station.”
“Wow.” Marge leaned forward.
“When I get off work, I take the youngest ones to ball practice, ballet, and piano lessons – all of which our church helps pay for.” Julie figured in her head. “I think that’s about it, but you see it’s a fine balance, and Simon is just doing his job.”
“Any outside life?”
“On Wednesday nights and Sundays we ride the church bus to church. Bob takes night classes at the community college, so he only joins us sometimes.”
Marge gulped. “And how old are you?”
“I’m twenty one.”
“And you have been doing this for three years?
“Julie, I tell you what, I wish I had more parents just like you.”
“Ma’am, I’m just a half sister helping with the kids.”
Marge stood and offered her hand to Julie, “No, honey, you’re a parent if I ever saw one.”
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