My son had given me very specific instructions. Bring the bag to the front office at the high school. Ask Linda the secretary to page him. Do not allow the staff to look inside the bag. If asked, just say it's a homework assignment. Give no other details.
It was the day of my son's big cross country meet. He's only a freshman but had been putting up some impressive times. Any other mother would have done the same--whatever it takes to give her son that extra edge. I double-bagged it, put my three year-old into her car seat and drove to the high school. "Maya," I said, "We're on a mission."
In the rust-colored office a surly-looking teenager was hunched in a chair. His legs stuck out into the room, his arms were crossed over his chest, and his hair covered his face. I wondered if he was sleeping.
"Can I help you?" A woman's head popped up over the top of the high counter.
"Hi! I'm Maya!" My daughter, the greeter.
"Well, hello," said the secretary. "I'm Linda." She wasn't used to such bubbly enthusiasm in the morning. The teenager in the chair didn't move.
"Do you have a brother or sister here?"
"Yes," I said, nudging Maya aside. "She has a brother. We just need to drop something off." I smiled. Linda waited. I've never been good with silence. "It's just a homework thing. That's all. Just a homework thing." I suppressed the urge to whistle.
"Yeah, that's ALL!" said Maya, jumping up and down.
"No problem," said the secretary. "I'll have one of our aides take it down to his classroom." She reached for the bag.
"No!" I hugged it to my chest. "I mean, no thank you. Wouldn't it be easier if you just paged him?" I let one arm, the bag arm, casually fall to my side and I raised the other to chew my thumb nail.
"I can't do that." She pointed to the construction workers outside. "They're working on the PA system today."
Maya crouched down in front of the teenager, trying to see under his hair. I picked her up and put her on the counter in front of me. This wasn't going as planned.
"Um, maybe you could send him a note to let him know that I'm here? It's an important assignment. Homework assignment."
"Sure, class gets out in just a couple of minutes." She wrote a message on a yellow pad of paper and handed it to a teenage girl in the next room. "When the bell rings, he'll know to come here."
"Perfect," I said. I took a deep breath. Mission accomplished. And then...
"It's underwear!" shouted Maya. "Underwear to cover your HINEY!"
Abort! Abort! Abort!
The secretary raised her eyebrows. "Your brother doesn't have any underwear?"
I put Maya back on the floor, none too gently. "He does," I said. "He does have underwear, but this is special underwear. He didn't wear the right kind today."
The teenager sat up and parted the hair in front of his face. Another secretary walked over and leaned on the counter.
"Oh dear." I puffed up my cheeks and blew out the air. "You see, there's a cross country meet today and, well, these underwear are more, you know, supportive." I made an upward cupping motion with my hands and then decided that was a bad idea and went back to biting my nail.
"He wore SNOOPY today!" called Maya, trying to scale the half wall up to the counter. "Snoopy underwear to cover his HINEY!" The teenager laughed. One secretary covered her mouth and her shoulders pulsed up and down. The other leaned so far over I couldn't see her anymore.
Oh, this was definitely not going as planned. My heart raced. The bell rang. "My son's very shy. He forgot this morning about the meet and called me because his boxers are really long and baggy and would hang out of his cross country shorts. Have you seen those cross country shorts? Please don't say anything. "
"Here comes brother!" Maya yelled. The only visible secretary shrunk down out of sight.
He walked in casually. He gave me a knowing glance. He brushed up next to me and silently took the bag. There were muffled noises coming from behind the counter. The teenager stood up from his chair and slapped my son on the back as he walked past him. Maya spun in circles.
"Thanks, Mom," he whispered as he retreated through the glass door.
The secretaries stood up, gasping for air as if they'd been drowning. They laughed into each other's hair and hit the counter.
"You're a great mom," said one as she sighed and wiped her eyes.
"Oh yes," squeaked the other. "Extremely supportive!"
Maya took my hand as we left the school. "I like missions," she said, and we skipped through the fall leaves out to the car.
Eileen lives in Western Washington where rain gear is important but not quite as important as underwear. She has four children, two large dogs, and one medium-sized husband. When not attending to critical missions, she writes on their family blog at http://scravings.blogspot.com/