It may not surprise you when I say that I haven't gotten a whole lot of flowers in my life from potential suitors. Of those guys who were ever interested in me, there were two types. First type The first type knew me well as a friend, and they knew that I probably would look at them strangely if they gave me flowers. "Huh?" as I would hold the flowers uncomfortably and tried to restrain my sighing as I scoured the house for a
All that being said, I remember receiving my first bouquet of flowers. Because I remember everything. Even flowers.
I was 10 years old. My mom was a single parent, and at the time we were living in California for about 3 months. During those 3 months, we were living in the equivalent of a hotel suite. My room was the living room. Even my mom didn't get her own room. She got the open loft. The living quarters sucked. School sucked too. We moved to California in the middle of the school year (Feb - April), and the school administration thought I was a migrant kid, which meant they put me in the ESL class. It took them a week to figure out I had a firmer grasp of English than the ESL teacher. Then I got moved to the 4th/5th class (they had two grades in most of the classes, and I was supposed to be in 5th). After a few weeks there, they thought I wasn't being challenged enough, and they moved me up to the 6th grade class. So in a span of 3 months, I went from ESL -> 4th/5th split -> 6th. I had originally started 5th grade in Texas, and after our stint in the middle of the school year in California, I ended up finishing 5th grade in Nevada. Geez oh man, I was a freaking resilient kid after the most disjointed 5th grade ever.
While we were in California, if things weren't already confusing enough, my mom got called for special training in Somewhere, America (I really can't remember where). It could have been a pre-trip to Nevada for all I know. The point is that she had to leave me for a week, and she didn't know what to do with me. Someone she worked with (who she knew for a whopping month or two) was supposed to take care of me while she was gone. At this point, I could only roll with it and hope my caretakers for that week weren't serial killers.
After living in the hotel, staying with my mom's work friend's family was heaven. It was heaven for many reasons. They had a daughter who was a junior or senior in high school. I seem to recall that they had older kids who didn't live with them. At the time, I just knew of the daughter, and she was a typical teen who was all angst-y and was gone or if she was home, she locked herself in her room. These people had 2 Japanese exchange students living with them, so I learned some about Japanese culture from them that week. I'd help them with English, they'd show me origami. The mom and dad were really nice, but above all you could see that they liked kids. I didn't feel like I was an annoyance; I felt like they wanted me there like they wanted the Japanese exchange students who they had volunteered to host in their home. I remember that week and watching TV with them in the family room, the dad reading the paper and talking to us while the mom ironed clothes. I'd be practicing origami and talking with the Japanese exchange students. The parents were planning their St. Patrick's Day party at the time, of course with green beer and green food. It was all so home-y, and I remember wanted being adopted by them.
The school spelling bee took place that March, and I had somehow won as a 5th grader even though the school went up to 6th grade. I didn't even think I had a chance at it, and honestly I was just spelling the words they gave me & I think I just lucked out with easy words. As you can see with my disjointed 5th grade, I couldn't have had any concerted effort to try to win because I had no idea what was happening even the next day. One day at a time. I had miraculously won, which stunned the principal. The new ESL kid was somehow the school spelling bee champion. Well, that meant I had to go to the next level - the district-wide spelling championship. Oh yeah, and the district one included junior high, so it went up to 9th grade. I was so screwed going into this, and I knew it. But still, the principal was excited.
My mom, however, was not excited. She was going out of town, and my spelling bee triumph screwed up my school schedule because the district-wide championship was later in the day. I didn't have transportation there, and then she had to tell the substitute parents for that week that they had to pick me up at 5pm or whenever it would get done. It was such a nuisance, according to her. She told me that my substitute parents for the week couldn't cater to my schedule, and I would just have to figure out transportation if I wanted to go.
I asked my principal for a ride to the spelling bee. I'm not sure if he was planning on going anyway, but he said yes. My mom had told the substitute parents about my annoying schedule change, and they said they could pick me up.
The day before the annoying schedule change I tried to delicately remind them of the 5pm thing. The dad said it would be no problem, but he didn't really know what I was doing. I told him that I had won the school spelling bee and I had to go to the district level and they scheduled it after school and there's no way I can win because it goes all the way up to 9th grade and blah blah blah it's a huge inconvenience and I'm so sorry and blah blah blah. He said it was no problem, he was just wondering.
The principal drives me there. He sticks around. I'm intimidated by these 9th grade boys who are huge and have facial hair. I'm just a tiny 5th grader. People get whittled down in the first few waves of spelling words. I'm looking at my principal for encouragement. But someone catches my eye in the crowd. It's my substitute dad for the week, and he's holding a bouquet of flowers. He came to watch me in the spelling bee, not just pick me up at the end like my mom would have done. I wave to him. I wish I could say that I beat those hairy 9th grade boys, but I didn't. I was in the final five - not too bad for a 5th grade ESL student. I was bummed because I felt like I let down my principal and my substitute dad, but they both were so happy that I did so well. My substitute dad for the week gave me the bouquet of flowers afterward, and I felt like a princess. I don't think it was the flowers; I think it was that he cared enough about this girl he got stuck with for a week that he took time off work to see her in the district spelling bee. And he acted like being there was a privilege for him, rather than a nuisance like my mom did.
I wonder if his angst-ridden teenage daughter knew just how awesome her dad was.