Sam and I went to The Golden Nugget this morning. It’s an awful name for a restaurant. I don’t generally eat someplace that has nugget in the name. But since we had this prime opportunity to spend some time together, just Sam and I, and since he is a pancake aficionado, I had to overlook the use of the word nugget.
He had chocolate milk and pancakes. I let him pour his own syrup. I gave him a slice of my bacon. He drew a picture of Santa but stopped at the hat. He felt the color selection was abysmal and there was no appropriate crayon for Santa’s skin or beard. We took goofy pictures of each other.
After breakfast, we drove to the south side so Sam could get tested by the Chicago Public Schools system to see if he ought to go to gifted kindergarten (I hear the gifted kids get better crayons.) We found free street parking like five blocks from the building. We walked hand in hand the whole way there, not talking. It’s bitterly cold today in Chicago and our boots were crunching on the ice. The streets were deserted. Sam was gleeful about the approach of kindergarten. But the whole things made me a little nauseous. He was just born like two seconds ago. Why was this happening?
We went into the building. A nice man directed us to the waiting room. There were three other parents in the room. Sam began to snuggle me and say in a goofy saccharin voice “Oh, I love you, mommy.” He started to cling and grope at me. I struggled with my own insecurities over his behavior and didn’t push him away (except when he grabbed my breast.) All four kids were summoned at the same time. A man named Paul asked for Sam. Sam walked straight up to Paul, took his hand, and walked away, confident and excited.
I sat there. Each parent had brought an additional adult. A nanny? A grandparent? What? And more importantly, why? One of the women popped her gum over and over and over. AND OVER. It was everything in me not to go put my face directly in front of hers and tell her to kindly shut the fuck up. The woman with the Coach bag wearing Coach shoes (that looked like Keds with Coach symbols all over them. HELLO, IT’S 8 DEGREES OUTSIDE AND THERE IS SNOW AND ICE EVERYWHERE. PUT ON BOOTS, JACKASS.) began discussing the merits of Uggs with the gum-snapper. The room became unbearable. I walked the halls for a few minutes while I waited.
Sam returned. The other parents seemed alarmed that their kid was not the first to return. One even rushed into the hall and bellowed, “How come that kid’s test was shorter than my kid’s test? What does THAT mean?” I inwardly wept for all her child would endure over the years and felt only slightly ashamed that I was judging her so harshly.
The other parents were silent, listening intently to us for clues. I said nothing to Sam as I dressed him in his coat, hat, and gloves. By the time we were done, the other three children had returned.
As we walked out, we passed a mom and her son on their way in. The kid was messy and wild and happy, skipping by her side. They did not wear Uggs or Coach. I felt normal again.
Only when we got outside did I ask Sam how it went. He said “They didn’t ask me about kindergarten, mom. They played games with me. They showed me pictures of things and stuff. Like I was supposed to see what was wrong like it was upside down and stuff or was a house bigger or a person and stuff. Some questions were hard and some were easy.”
And that was that. We stopped on the way home for a car wash. I told Sam he could have Cheetohs for lunch while we waited. He stood with his mouth hanging open in disbelief as I bought Cheetohs and only Cheetohs. He leaned his head on my shoulder while he ate. I did not stop him wiping his fingers on his pants.
The car looks fantastically clean. And it’s just another ordinary day.