“Why do we have to go? This will be BORING!”
“We haven’t even got there yet Luke. besides, I thought you’d like spending the day with me. I kind of miss you now that you’re at school.”
“Yeah. But the Art Gallery?” I had to agree with him there. I have no idea why Grammar would think that the Art Gallery was an appropriate place for Kindergarteners to experience their first school excursion.
“Have you ever been before?”
I sighed. “Once. For one of Daddy’s dinners.”
“Was it boring?”
I smiled. Probably one of the most boring nights of my life, I wanted to say. “It wasn’t so bad.”
He looked at me with a mixture of skepticism and tacit understanding, and it comforted me somewhat knowing that underneath the Grammar uniform he was still the same rapscallion he’d always been.
I bent down to straighten his tie and he rolled his huge blue eyes. I looked into them for a moment, sensing his 5 year old frustration.
“Look, if you get stuck, just nod and say hmmmmm…or pick a colour in the painting and say you like the way the artist used it to express their inner thoughts. Something like that. Worked for me!”
“Kids don’t do that Mum.”
“I mean, I like drawing Ninja Turtles, but I’d much rather be surfing. That’s kind of what I think of art.”
Since Linda had experienced a terrible collagen injury during term one she’d been housebound – Marley imagined with an ice pack and Real Housewives box set on her Italian Leather lounge – so she had relinquished her Class Mum duties. Marta was completely unimpressed when Caroline swiftly suggested to Miss Howell that I step in as the second class mum. It worked out well for Caroline. She got all the gossip Class Mums are privy to, and first pick at literacy program dates and didn’t have to lift a finger to help. I was her Class Mum by proxy.
I’d taken on the role thinking that it would give me more time with my little boy who was rapidly becoming a big kid and holding my hand less and less. Even so, I’d pictured bake sales and the occasional reading group, not trips to the Art Gallery. Luke was right. It was going to be a long day.
We waited in the brisk Autumn air for the other kids to arrive at the school coach stop. Marta and Tarquin arrived first.
“Well hello dear.” Marta’s superior tone always made me a little uneasy.
“Hi Marta. How’s the new job going?”
“Oh darling.” She scoffed so loudly she almost smeared her Chanel lipstick. “It’s not a job. I’m a Life-style Blog-ger.” She said it slowly as if she was speaking to a war veteran with two hearing aids. From the First World War.
“Oh, yeah. Well, how is that?” I had perfected the art at rolling my eyes on the inside so as not to cause a scene.
“Wonderful darling. We’re presenting a gorgeous little country home motif next week. With Winter coming its time to put away the keys to the beach house and relax on a cream fabric chaise with a beautiful plush blanket and a nice glass of pinot noir in front of the fire.”
Marta furrowed her brow just enough that I recognised the recent botox work her cosmetic enhancement specialist had put in, and continued on under her breath, “Hmmmm, maybe that should be a beige chaise. Cream would stain terribly if, God forbid, anyone is stupid enough to spill…though beige chaise doesn’t have the same ring to it…details Marta…details!”
I looked at her blankly, and turned my attention to Tarquin. “Hi Tarquin! We had the best time at your party last term, didn’t we Luke?”
“Mum, there were two Jedi, a bouncy Castle and a petting zoo. And a helicopter ride. Plus we got to whack a Piñata. Yeah I had fun.”
“Actually Luke, you weren’t supposed to whack it, you were supposed to pull the strings.”
Luke shrugged. “More fun my way.”
Marta had finished talking to herself and was scribbling fiercely away in her notebook.
“Are you okay Marta?”
“Yes dear. Perhaps I’ll go with Hog Bristle?”
“Hog bristle Chaise. Or Taupe. What do you think? Actually, never mind. I’m sure you’re not concerned with matters of interior design.” She looked down through her glasses at Luke.
“Marley darling, did you not read the briefing?”
“About today’s excursion?”
“You mean the note in his school bag? Yes I did. Why?” I wondered what I had forgotten.
“Did you not read the part about tidy uniforms? They are representing Grammar and all its proud history and traditions!”
“Uh, yeah I know. I mean, I washed and ironed it.”
“Yes but dear, is that a second hand uniform?”
“Yes. I got it from the clothing pool.”
“Darling, that’s for poor students.”
“There are poor students at Grammar?”
“Sometimes. Its a very community conscious school. Sometimes they have scholarships. You know, children who are gifted at academic pursuits or rugby but have unfortunate financial situations. Sometimes music I think. Anyway, those uniforms should really be reserved for those in the community that can’t afford Grammar prices. Where is your community spirit?”
“Well, I just thought that he’ll outgrow it so quickly and its such a waste.”
“There’s nothing charitable about being thrifty Marley.”
“Well, I’ll give it back for someone else once he’s outgrown it.”
“Third hand school uniforms? Marley, really, the things you say.”
I decided a change of subject was needed as my inner eye roll was getting too much of a workout. The other children had started milling around, but as yet there was no sign of Miss Howell.
“What are you looking forward to seeing today Tarquin?”
“The Candinsky. I hear its spectacular. I’ve seen pictures, of course, but I can’t wait to see it in person.”
“I can’t wait for lunch!” Luke Piped up.
Tarquin turned to Marta and whispered under his breath “Mum, it’s like he’s never even had an art tutor!”
She bent down and whispered just loud enough for us to hear “He probably hasn’t dear. Perhaps you could teach him a little today. It can be your good deed.”
“No thanks.” Luke said plainly. “I’m really only coming because I have too. And also because mum packed me a cheese and ham sandwich on white bread and a packet of salt and vinegar chips. Since we got our juicer I’m almost never allowed to have white bread or chips. What do you have for lunch?”
Tarquin looked pained. “Um, a vegetable vietnamese roll and a gluten free chia seed muffin.”
“With non-soy soy sauce.” His mother corrected.”For the Vietnamese roll. And the muffins were hand made. Of course.” I wondered which tutor or nanny had hand made them.
“Oh I see.” I said. “It’s the details, right?”
I had never been more pleased to see Miss Howell. She swept the children onto the bus with a beaming smile and all the youthful exuberance she could muster with the prospect of accompanying 18 children visiting an Art Gallery ahead of her.
As she was taking names on the bus, Tarquin turned to talk to Luke.
“I must admit Luke, I’m very excited at the prospect of going on a bus for the first time.”
“Oh. You’ve never been on a bus?”
“No. Mother says public transport is the chariot of the unfortunate.”
Luke sighed and turned away. “Well, it is today.”
I smiled at him and rubbed his head affectionately. You can take the boy out of Nepleabean Heights…