Other people’s parties

After spending the better part of the windy, wet day trying to protect my hair, I found myself changing into a formal dress (navy blue with lace print and peplum waist flap, for those who care) in the restroom of an after-school facility for children. The bathroom mirror only came up to my hips so I had to squat to touch up my make-up. Not that there was much to be done after a full day of teaching, weather and six-year olds.

I had been invited to a Maturitní Ples the Czech version of high school prom, only multiplied by a thousand. It is a massive rite of passage ceremony that friends and family are invited to which lasts far into the night and is riddled with cultural traditions, local talent and Czech covers of popular American songs from the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Having never been to one, I was exceptionally nervous. So nervous that I didn’t even try to respond to the drunk guy on the metro who kept talking to me (I’m pretty sure he was interested in my nail polish, but it was hard to tell). I have never in my life ignored another human being so rudely, let alone passed up an opportunity to practice my Czech! But my stomach was in knots and there was nothing I could do.

Why? Because that’s always how I feel when I go to parties. Tis the fate of the socially awkward, super self-conscious. Are my shoes formal enough? Does my hair look like I walked here from Warsaw? Is this dress see-through? where the heck is the lining on this thing??

Most party stories I don’t tell people because they don’t make me look very good or because I hope they’ll get more interesting with time (a few I don’t tell because I’d like to not be the sibling who pushes my mom into an early grave). But this story needs to be told because it was dazzling (not me, mind you. I was a mess. Sometimes I feel like a walking meme).

disney teacups

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I ate Bob

The sky was placid blue, sleeping in the sunshine of a perfect San Diego afternoon. It was just the kind of day for an adventure. I stepped lightly in white patent leather low-heeled shoes, clutching a fistful of my orange-cream colored dress fresh off the Wal-Mart rack. Eleven-year old me was about to have High Tea at the Hotel Del Coronado.

My sisters and my best friend at my side, mothers in tow, I waltzed into the grand lobby of the old, seaside hotel.

We each had our own tea pot, chose our own tea, and had multiple options for silverware, of which I used as few as possible.

But the highlight for me (and anyone who knows me should not be even a little surprised) was the huge stacked tray of delicious cookies, crackers and biscuits. No ordinary snacks, were they. They were laced with fresh salmon, dill whips and vegetables sliced so thinly you could have used them for printing paper. At the bottom of the tray, somewhat overshadowed, deviled eggs sat patiently waiting to be tried. Ordinary and undecorated, they were easily overlooked. Their only ornament was a berry-sized sphere of a pepper-gray hue. It looked like a tapioca ball like we use in boba tea.

My sister had already eaten one and said it tasted spicy.

“Like pepper,” said my friend’s mom.

I had the egg and it’s mystery topping half-way into my mouth when my friend asked, “What is it?”

“You don’t want to know,” said her mom.

I pulled the egg out of my gaping jaws. What was that now?

Some hem-ing and haw-ing and finally my mom explained, “It’s caviar.”

That sounded elegant. What was the problem?

“They’re fish eggs,” said my friend’s mom.

Oh. That’s the problem.

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Teacher Moments

Courtesy of Hosanna Alm, photographer and friend extraordinaire.

Courtesy of Hosanna Alm, photographer and friend extraordinaire.

The glint in her eyes told me she meant business. The banana she was pointing at my chest told me it was serious. Plastic trays clattered in the emptying cafeteria and laughter could be heard in the hallway. But next to the deserted food line all was quiet, save her infectious, Calvin-like giggling. Her Hobbes, also armed with a banana-gun, had just returned from stacking their lunch trays. Two to one. I didn’t like my odds.

I pulled a banana of my own from my cardigan pocket. Aha!


I clutched my chest as the pain of the fake bullet made its way deep into my ego, serenaded by the devilish laughter of the two fourth graders responsible for my wound.

Our banana war continued into the hallway where we were met by boys, also brandishing fruit. They were slightly more Viet Cong in their approach, coming behind the girls and pretending to slit their throats with banana-machetes. That’s where I put my foot down – partly because I can be a serious adult and partly because the teacher monitoring the hallway had just rounded the corner.

I’m collecting a series of memories that I call “teacher moments.” They’re the scattered minutes throughout the week that make my job so … gosh, so worthwhile.

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