I agreed to be a mystery reader in the class our daughter teaches. Talk about pressure. What did I expect? It was kindergarten.
She gives the kids a clue every day so they can try to figure out whose parent or grandparent is going to be the reader the last day of the week. One of the clues was that the mystery reader “has a grown child that looks a lot like the teacher.”
It was anticlimactic when I walked through the door. They gave up a weak round of applause and an anemic cheer. I had a hunch it could be a tough room; I had no idea how tough.
I read three books, making sweeping moves with the book making sure all the kids could see, all the while looking at the print upside down. By book two, I had motion sickness.
I did voices and animal noises. I contorted my face for expression and threw myself into the characters.
When I finished the best reading of my life, I closed the book. They just sat there staring. They were waiting for more. You’d think when you’re the teacher’s mother, they’d cut you some slack.
“So I’m your teacher’s mother. How about that?”
Somebody said, “Jack’s dad is a policeman.”
There was no way to trump that. I was fresh out of handcuffs. Too bad, too.
“I’ll teach you to play your nose!” I said.
I showed them how to press one nostril shut with an index finger and hum. We did a few rounds of Old MacDonald and they warmed up a bit. For about 60 seconds.
“When Mira’s mother came, she walked on her hands,” someone said.
The room exploded with excitement.
“Yeah! She wasn’t going to walk on her hands. She was just going to stand on her head, but we made a big circle and she walked on her hands. Can you walk on your hands? How about a flip? Can you do a flip?”
It would be nice if you knew in advance that your audience would be expecting circus tricks following the reading, but you play the hand you’re dealt.
“We heard you do another trick,” someone said.
I glared at my daughter. I have mentioned before that my only real talent is barking like a sea lion. I haven’t done it in years because it rips my throat and is not particularly dignified.
The kids pleaded and I refused. They pleaded more. I refused more.
I saw my daughter slip out her video camera. There was no way I was barking like a sea lion with a camera present.
She dropped her camera.
My throat was sore and my voice was hoarse for four days, but I left that classroom a rock star.
If you ever agree to be a mystery reader, request to be at the front of the lineup, not after somebody’s mother who can walk on her hands.