(scene opens in sewing room sweatshop, violin practice off screen)
Alpha: How was that? Am I all done?
Me: (puts down bodice) I think you could play a little bit longer, but it sounds good. I have to talk to you about something.
Alpha: (approaches hesitantly)
Me: Have you talked to Girlfriend recently?
Alpha: (wary brave face) Yeah. A couple of times.
Me: (tactfully lets it pass) We need to discuss the “Care and Feeding of the Girlfriend”. They’re not like houseplants where you talk to them once a month and everything is fine. Put your violin away then go upstairs and call her. You don’t have to plan anything, we’re probably busy this weekend, maybe you can meet at the park on Monday, but just tell her “Hey, thinking of you, wanted to see how things were going over your summer.”
Alpha: (tension ratchets down) You think so? Okay! (volin snaps into place, pounding upstairs offscreen)
Me: (licks finger, hash marks the air for a win)
(scene opens in rough finished laundry room)
Me: (sorting dirty laundry hip deep)
Beta: (shouting from kitchen above) Mom! We’ve got a problem!
Me: (already through) Then solve it, Beta! I’m working!
Beta: That’s the problem. I don’t know how to solve it!
Me: (mutters curses, extracts from dirty laundry, climbs stairs to kitchen)
Beta: (waiting by door, holding moldy strawberry)
Me: (stares, incredulous)
Beta: What do I do with it?
Me: (heartbeat) Eat it.
Beta: No way! (throws it in the garbage can)
Me: Really. You called me upstairs for that. You couldn’t figure it out.
Beta: (sheepish smile)
(scene opens in toy strewn parlor, summer school work in progress)
Me: Okay, twenty minutes of baritone. Let’s do some scale work.
Beta: I only know four notes.
Me: (pause for mini-stroke) A year of band and you only know four notes? (flips through book, finds scale) Here – start at G and play the octave.
Beta: (obligatory suffering, starts playing)
Me: (listens to the audio equivalent of a bucket of legos dumped out) What the hell was that?
Beta: (defensively) I’m playing the scale.
Me: (takes baritone, runs the scale) The notes go in order, lowest tone to highest then you go back down. Not a grab bag of sounds. What day were you not paying attention where you missed this part of music theory? How is the sound of it not audible common sense?
Beta: (cue more suffering)
(scene opens in tossed dining room)
Alpha: (suffering) Why are we doing this!? We’re the only kids in the whole neighborhood doing summer work.
Me: Because I want you to be smarter than you are now.
Alpha: I don’t want to be smarter, I want to be like everyone else.
Me: (dies a little)
Beta: “The lowest point in the US is in California. What is the name of this point?” Duh, California.
Me: Death Valley.
Me: Get back to work.
(scene opens in moderately clean kitchen)
Beta: (snaps off dish gloves) Done!
Me: (surveys work) Thank you, Beta,for all your hard work and for abiding by the contract.
Beta: What do I get out of it?
Me: You continue to get fed.
Beta: I can feed myself.
Me: With my food.
Beta: Fair enough.
(scene opens on the sidewalk, mother trying for patience with a toddler’s pace)
Neighbor Lady: School’s out already?
Me: ‘Fraid so. Please don’t judge all the empty wine bottles on the back porch in a week.
Neighbor Lady: (laughs, points to her house) His last day of work is today and tomorrow he starts his retirement. I might be over there helping you.
Me: I’ll order extra.
(scene opens in cluttered kitchen)
Me: I need these dishes washed. Each of you needs to do a whole load to clear this counter. Alpha, you go first.
Alpha: Can I finish my jello?
Beta: I’m going to have breakfast too.
(time passes, Beta finishes first)
Me: Beta, you’re up. Fill the basket, nothing halfway. Plates, glasses, silverware.
Beta: (starts to cry) But you said Alpha had to go first!
Me: He’s still finishing his jello.
Beta: But it’s not fair, you said he had to go first, I want to go downstairs to watch TV!
Me: You can watch TV when you’re done.
Beta: (crying intensifies)
Me: I am not spending the rest of the summer doing this. Alpha! Get in here! (Alpha arrives, has jello cup taken from him) Do a load of dishes.
Alpha: (sighs, begins washing)
Me: (gives crazy eyes to Beta) There. Now you can go second. And when Alpha is all finished, put all those dishes away and then wash your load of dishes.
Beta: But that’s not fair, he didn’t have two jobs!
Me: Then maybe next time when I tell you to go first, you go first instead of crying about it! You’re so busy arguing fairness you just screwed yourself. Hope you learned something.
Beta: (sullen pout)
(scene opens in dawn-tinged bedroom)
Gamma: (comes running in)
Me: (opens eyes right before impact)
Gamma: I graduated! Today I go to first grade.
Me: (in amused pity) No, honey, the graduation ceremony was early. You have two more days of kindergarten.
Gamma: (face falls in shocked disappointment) But I’m a first grader now!
Me: (gently) You don’t go to first grade until August. You have two more days of kindergarten.
Gamma: (crushed) I was robbed. (slumps out of the room)
Husband: (mumbled into pillow) For someone who had such a hard year, that was a resolute show of spirit.
Me: Now she has all summer to get even more excited.
(scene opens in crowded foyer, conversation in progress)
Gamma: I don’t want my toys to become voodoo!
Beta: No, your toys aren’t voodoo, there are dolls called voodoo dolls.
Gamma: But that’s scary! I don’t want voodoo dolls.
Beta: Your dolls don’t become voodoo dolls, they’re something totally different.
Gamma: But they hurt people! If you punch them don’t I get hurt?
Beta: I don’t know how it works actually.
Me: (rubbing forehead) It’s time to go, guys. Let me get my jacket on and I’ll explain sympathetic magic to you on the way to school, okay?
Gamma: Yay! Mommy is teaching us magic!
(scene opens in echoing Legoland cafe, filled with screaming kids)
Gamma: Mom, who’s that lady with the red hair?
Me: (turns, sees wall covered with portraits of superhero min-figs) That’s Poison Ivy. She and Harley Quinn are girlfriend-girlfriend.
Gamma: Huh. Which on is Batman’s girlfriend?
Gamma: Oh. Can I have goldfish with my pizza?
(scene opens in toy tossed bedroom)
Me: Enough, Gamma. I’ve been after you all week to pick up.
Gamma: But I did!
Me: (enhancing her calm) You have not. Look, I’ll help.
Gamma: But it is!
Me: (ignoring, pointing to books) Put these on the shelves. (pulls out bin) Put the dolls in here. I’ll collect the dirty laundry.
Gamma: (uncertain) Okay.
Me: (picks up jeans to reveal an Elves Lego min-fig) Here. Put David Bowie in the Lego box.
Gamma: David Bowie? How do you know his name is David Bowie?
Me: That’s the Goblin King. Everyone knows the Goblin King’s name is David Bowie.
Gamma: Thanks mom.
(scene opens in cluttered dining room)
Beta: Mom what are these?
Me: (already through) What do they look like?
Beta: Star Wars books. But what are they for?
Me: Read the whole cover. (watches his eyes skip from the logo to the fine print at the bottom)
Beta: They’re for first grade.
Me: Beta, read the whole thing.
Beta – (long silence) OH! This one is for reading and this is writing. And math.
Me – Can you tell me why the last thing you read on this page was the big white letters, easily taking up 3/5ths of the page? Instead of maybe starting at the top and reading your way down?
Beta – Uh….I don’t know.
Me – (thinking about how much money she’s going to save on not sending kids to college)