“Let’s see, dinner at 5:30, PTA at 6:30… if everything goes right…” Mary muttered to herself while checking the oven. Grabbing the cornbread muffins, she spun right, dodged the three-year old, stepped over the cat’s squeaky toy, flipping on the dishwasher on as she hurried past.
“So far, so good!” she said as she eyed the kitchen clock.
“Bobby, wash up and come set the table, please.”
“Okay … In a minute.”
“Sorry, Bob, no minutes left, I need you now!” She heard his sneakers bounce down the stairs and the rattle of dishes in the dining room confirmed his arrival.
Mary moved quickly as the clocked tick-tocked away. Mustering full mom-speed ahead, she pulled the meatloaf out of the oven, sliding it onto a platter. Scooping up the baby and balancing the hot dish, she scooted through the doorway, only to find Bobby at dead stop in front of her.
“Ooooops,” she said, juggling baby, platter and proximity of the 8-year-old. She weebled, he wobbled, no one fell down. Disaster averted.
“Mom, what’s that mean?”
“Huh? What’s what mean?”
“Oh. Gosh, I’m not sure. Used to be when we’d almost fall down, we’d say whoops. Maybe a short version of that.” Mary wiggled the baby into his chair and snapped the tray into place.
“But what does it mean?” he insisted.
“Hurry up and get the plates on the table, we’re going to be late.” Mary ducked the question, smiling as Mark walked in the door.
“Hi, Hon. Dinner’s ready, we’re supposed to be at the PTA meeting by 6:30.”
“Dad, what’s oops mean?”
“Uh…good question, Bob. It’s something people say when they almost fall down but catch their balance.”
“Oh. But, why?”
“It’s like “ow” or “oh” or “huh”, just something people say.”
Mary giggled to herself as Mark diverted the questions by saying grace. She knew Bobby wouldn’t give up without an answer. Spooning slushy peach puree into the baby’s mouth, she smiled as the boy began again.
“Why do they do that, Dad?” Bobby asked.
“Mostly it’s something they heard someone say, then started saying themselves. It’s just a habit. Sure beats using a bad word.”
“Oh, sorta like saying “Gee Whiz” instead of “Jesus”, like they do on TV?”
“Exactly right. Now finish eating. We’re out of time.”
Appreciating Mark’s patience with Bobby’s questions, Mary gave him a quick hug. Dinner finished, Mark and Mary loaded everyone up and headed for school.
A flurry of hello’s greeted the family as they distributed kids to childcare and found seats near the front of the room. Conversations hummed and buzzed until the meeting was called to order.
“The first order of business tonight is to deal with the cancellation of the after school programs,” announced Bart Bradley, PTA president. “This is just a hammer to get votes for the school levy.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” came a voice from the back.
“It’s not fair,” yelled another.
Bart tapped his gavel. “Who’s got something to add?”
“Mr. President?” Bea Walker’s voice trembled.
“Well, I’ve looked at the budget and I don’t think there is money for the after school programs. It just isn’t there and we need….”
“Now, Bea,” Bart’s sarcastic tone overrode the woman’s comment, “it’s just like you to stick up for the school board. After all, your husband was on it for years.”
Mary’s heart ached for Bea. She knew how hard it was for her to speak up. Despite her husband’s recent death and her own timid nature, Bea was here to help the kids.
“Bart, I’d like to hear what Bea has to say,” Mark spoke up. Others in the room nodded in agreement.
“Okay, Bea. Finish up what you’ve got to say so we can get done tonight.”
“The money isn’t in the budget and hasn’t been for a long time. It’s our job to make that happen -- for the kids.” the soft voice was clear. “This isn’t about forcing the school board to change. They’re doing the best they can with what they have. We’re the ones who need to find the funds, create the opportunities and make sure the programs happen.”
“Oh, no,” Bart bellowed, “They haven’t cut the fat… “
“Mr. Bradley”, Mary interjected, “do you have a copy of the latest budget?”
“Have you read it through?”
"I looked at it.”
“So, you didn’t read it thoroughly?
Mr. Bradley gave no answer.
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