As Kallan throws her backpack and her lunch bag on the counter, I ask, “So how did your speech go?”
She sinks into a chair. “OK, so you know how we were each supposed to collect five items that would help us share with the class something about who we are and what we find meaningful in life?”
“Yes.” Part of the reason I know this is because Kallan spent some time running around the house yelling about how she didn’t have the perfect brown paper bag in which to place her items and YES it has to be a plain brown paper bag but NO THAT ONE’S NOT RIGHT it has to be a brown paper bag without any logos on it but NO THAT ONE IS A BIRTHDAY-GIFT BAG it has to be smaller than that the teacher showed us examples and it has to look like his examples and NO I CANNOT USE A GROCERY BAG ARE YOU INSANE it has to be exactly like the ones he held up in class I’m telling you they were all exactly the same and so you have to take me to the store to buy the perfect brown paper bag I ALREADY TOLD YOU THAT ONE HAS THE WRONG KIND OF HANDLES I need to go to the store AND WHY ARE YOU LAUGHING?
Because the thing Kallan decided to find most meaningful about this assignment was NOT STANDING OUT IN ANY WAY FROM HER PEERS.
So I say again, “Yes, I remember. What did you eventually decide to bring, anyway?” She waves aside my question, and I make a mental note to ask again in a few days so I can get back whatever household items of value are currently sitting in a plain brown paper birthday-gift bag at her school, waiting to be assigned a grade.
She looks at me. “You would not believe the number of people in my class who apparently carry all of their most meaningful things in their backpacks.”
“Let me guess … lots of phones and ear-buds and pencils and pens and lunch items?”
She nods. “Exactly like that. The most boring speeches in the world.” She walks to the refrigerator and starts scrounging around for a snack. “Also, some of the boys in my class gave their speeches wearing only one shoe.”
She pulls out a cheese stick and some salami, “Yeah, bunch of the boys ran out of ideas in the moments before the bell rang, and so they each just took off a shoe and shoved it into their bags … because of their love for sports … obviously. It was ridiculous.”
I laugh. “Make a note of those boys. Those are the boys who grow up to be men who buy their wives wedding-anniversary gifts at the gas station on the way home from work.”
Later in the day, Kallan retells the story for her father, and when she gets to the part where I suggested she make a note of those boys, Mark interrupts knowingly. “Because those are the boys who get Cs and Ds, and you don’t want anything to do with those boys.”
Kallan reaches to caress his cheek. “Poor Daddy.”
He is confused. “What?”
Kallan smiles sadly. “When I do start dating, it’s going to be a very difficult time for you.”