Casey and I squeeze inside Casey's new tent, pink with blue flowers and mermaids. She got it 'cause she turned six. Also, so she wouldn't pull all the sheets off the beds and make stuff where the pretend roof falls in.
"I get to be the boss, Mimi," Casey says, "because I'm the first kid in Miss Winters class to be six."
"No, you aren't. Joe turned six the second day of kindergarten. He brought cupcakes. Remember? He laughed so hard milk came out of his nose. Besides, we already started playing. We're kids on a farm the year Grandma was born. About a hundred years ago when they got milk from cows and not grocery stores."
"Milk still comes from cows," Casey says. "They just squirt it into cartons now."
"We're supposed to be in the game now." I stick out my tongue. "School has candles 'cause they don't have 'lectricity yet."
Mr. Walter comes in with Casey's bookbag, opened. "They had electricity when your grandmother was born." He laughs. "I see you have a special event coming up next week. You didn't give it to me or Fred. The paper is folded into a stamp-sized square and hidden in your lunchbox. Not a good hiding place." He holds up a bumpy, blue flyer.
Casey sighs. I know why. There is a big Mother's Day celebration coming up. For all the kindergarten and first grade classes. Friday evening. All the kids and their moms are invited. One problem both Casey and I got. Casey has two dads. Mr. Walter and Mr. Fred. She was adopted.
I only have a dad. My mom died before I learned to walk. He takes good care of me, and Grandma comes to our house to help. A lot. But ... I always wonder what having a mom would be like. Casey and I pretend to be mommies. Kind of like pretending to be monkeys when we can't swing from one branch to another. Heck, we can't even reach the high bars on the playground.
"Mimi, are you and your dad going?" Walter asks.
"Um, it's just for mommies and kids." I don't say that I didn't give my dad the paper about the party either.
"Tell you what. I'll call the school and see if it's okay. I know the principal."
I have a bad feeling about this. When Casey and I play house the part of the mommy is different. We don't use high whiney voices and we don't complain about stuff our husbands don't do. I'm sad I don't remember my mom, but Dad's showed me pictures. I haven't asked to see them though in a long time. They make him too sad, especially when he says I got her dark hair and green eyes.
Dad wears his best suit. It's worn at the elbows but dressing up isn't Dad's thing. He drives big machines and helps build houses. Casey and I didn't say much at school today. We didn't even raise our hands when Miss Winters asked who was going to the big party tonight. We pretended that printing S words on line-paper was a lot more fun.
S for how silly we felt. Maybe even stupid.
Mr. Walter and Dad decided the four of us would go together. Mr. Fred is quieter. He thought Mr. Walter would do better, especially since he already knows the principal. Strange, I can't imagine him being anything else but the in-charge person at the school. Born with an almost bald head and a long nose that's really hard not to stare at.
I thought Mr. Walter and Dad would be the only guys there. The principal and all the man-teachers came dressed up. Well, both of the man teachers.
"Walt!" the principal called, loud. "I haven't seen you in ... how long?"
"Senior year of college."
"Still doing stand-up?"
"What's that?" I whisper to Casey.
"Can you still do the magic and balloon tricks you did for kids in the hospital?" the principal asks.
"Like riding a bicycle."
"I hoped you'd say that because I have something to show you. I made a run to the party store this afternoon."
Dad smiles. For real. And I get him some punch that's okay but tastes good because nobody pays any attention to us. Not really. All the kids are busy doing stuff for their moms, like nobody else is there. The cookies are the plain kind. No nuts. Of course. That's okay. And no messy icing. That's not okay.
The principal stands on the auditorium stage. "I have a surprise for you." He introduces his old friend, Mr. Walter. "He is going to do some magic tricks and make animal balloons for you."
Mr. Walter dances on stage. He falls on purpose and then jumps up. Fast. Like a circus person. He's probably 40. I thought he was too old to do that. He asks kids to help him with magic tricks and pulls cards out from his coat pocket. His laugh sounds like a hyena with the hiccups. Every kid, almost, wants to be part of the show.
Suddenly, I notice Dad isn't next to me anymore. He's talking to one of the moms.
I stand next to them for a while before he notices.
"Your daughter?" the lady asks my dad.
"This is Mimi," he answers. "Yes."
"I'm Josh Kent's mom," she says.
Josh is a quiet kid. Kind of like Bashful from the Seven Dwarfs. Dad always said he's the one most often forgotten because he's so quiet he could be part of white wallpaper.
I wonder if Josh's mom can read my thinking because she says, "Josh has been so quiet since his dad died. I've been praying he finds some friends."
"He can come to our house to play," I say. Dad taught me to be nice to people who need help. Besides, Casey is a great friend, but one more wouldn't hurt.
Dad smiles and his face turns a funny kind of red. "That would be wonderful. I just asked this fine woman if she wants to go out for coffee. Tomorrow? Maybe all four of us could go."
I shrug. "Would root beer be okay instead?"
"That's Josh's favorite, too," Mrs. Kent says. "It's a six-year-old's choice these days."
Ah! Another kid who could be older than Casey. I can't wait to tell her.
"Happy Mother's Day, Josh Kent's Mom. You, too, Dad."
The bad feeling I had before the party is gone. I got a good one now. It has something to do with Dad's smile.