Jan jerked the slippery strap of her purse back onto her shoulder for the umpteenth time. She could feel her frustration rising with each strained step.
“I SO do not need this today,” she grumbled. “Stupid school. This’d better be important.”
She flipped her overgrown bangs from her face as she approached her son’s fourth grade classroom. Opening the door, her purse slid down to her wrist yet again. She grumbled and then looked up to see that Mrs. Kern was not alone.
“Helen?” Jan grimaced at the sight of her mother-in-law sitting in front of Mrs. Kern’s desk. Just add to my nightmare.
Helen smirked, looking at her watch. “Yes, Jan, at least one of us was here on time.”
“Well, some of us have a full-time-job,” Jan snipped.
“I had a job, too, remember? It was called Full-Time Mom.”
Mrs. Kern cleared her throat. “Hello, Mrs. Jacobs. The other Mrs. Jacobs and I have already become acquainted.”
Reaching out to shake Mrs. Kern’s hand, Jan was suddenly aware of the pitiful scene her son’s teacher had just witnessed. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Kern. I’m sorry, Helen. I’ve just had a tough day.”
“And I’m sorry, too. That was disrespectful of us to carry on in front of you, Lois.”
Did she just call Mrs. Kern “Lois”? Talk about disrespectful.
“It’s ok.” Mrs. Kern forced a semi-smile on her face and continued. “The reason I called you both in here today is to discuss Justin with you.”
Helen gasped. “Justin’s not in trouble, is he?”
“No,” Mrs. Kern reassured her. “He’s a good kid. But—um—he’s been rather—sad lately.”
“Sad? What on earth makes you think he’s sad?” Helen squawked.
“Helen, just let her talk, for goodness’ sake.”
Mrs. Kern squirmed in her chair. “Well, he hasn’t been participating much, and he’s been doodling and daydreaming during the time that he’s supposed to be learning.”
“You called us here about some doodling and daydreaming?” Jan complained.
“Well,” Helen chastised, “some people would call that a problem.”
Jan deliberately ignored Helen’s remarks. “So, Mrs. Kern, if you don’t mind my asking, why did you choose to involve Justin’s grandmother with this?”
“She obviously doesn’t think his mother will take care of it on her own,” Helen mumbled, tucking her chin in her neck.
Clearing her throat a second time, Mrs. Kern brought out some papers from her top desk drawer. “I want you to see the poem Justin wrote for English class. Since both of you are subjects of the content, I thought it wise to invite both of you to come in and read it. But before I show it to you, I’d like to tell you one more thing: After class on the same day he turned in the poem, Justin asked if he could have it back. Now I had already read it, but he didn’t know that. I thought maybe he was embarrassed and wanted to re-write it. However, when he returned it to me, he had added the last stanza. That last stanza is the reason I asked you here today. Please take your time reading it and discussing what Justin felt compelled to share. Thank you for coming.”
At that, Mrs. Kern handed them a copy of the poem and made a deliberate exit, shutting the door behind her.
Unsettling silence hung over them as they each read Justin’s poem.
by Justin H. Jacobs
Mom tucks me in and reads me a story.
Grandma gives me hugs and tells me not to worry.
Mom sings me songs and helps me with my math.
Grandma tells me jokes and always makes me laugh.
But I’m sick of them both just acting like kids!
Don’t they know what it’s like when they blow their lids?
I wonder why they can’t just try to get along.
The Bible says that their attitudes are wrong.
As my teacher, can you please give them both a detention?
Then—maybe then—it will get their attention.
“Gramma, love my mom. She’s your son’s loving wife.”
“Mom, respect Gramma. She’s lived a long, wise life.”
They looked up at each other, stunned.
Helen’s face was as white as a blank sheet of paper. Jan shifted awkwardly in her seat, pinching the temple of her throbbing forehead. The sound of the school bell shattered their silence.
“Well, well, well,” Helen declared, “I do believe that Mrs. Kern has given us an after-school detention.”
“Yes, Helen—And Justin’s definitely managed to get our attention.”
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