On Saturday morning I woke up at eight to the alarm I'd scrupulously set the night before. I first cleaned both bathrooms while simultaneously entertaining Mademoiselle and her stuffed toy squirrel; I then got Mademoiselle dressed and fed breakfast. Before I hopped in the shower, while still in my pajamas, I got out the rubber gloves, the vinegar and baking soda and took apart and unclogged the shower drain. I was showered, dressed, and ready to run out the door by 9:20.
I was a bit behind schedule, but I ran and arrived on time to Le Petit's school in under ten minutes, where I had signed up for an introductory first aid workshop. Along with a dozen other conscientious parents, I learned how to do CPR and use a heart defibrillator with a volunteer from the local Red Cross.
This is me these days, trying to fit as many good deeds into a weekend as possible: cleaning, organizing, working out, thinking ahead, cooking, shopping, reading Dr. Seuss out loud, and cramming quality time with the husband and kids in between loads of laundry. I can make homemade ice cream, play Monopoly, and survey snack time at the same time, I've discovered, thanks to our large formica kitchen table.
At the end of the training, one of the other mothers turned to me, probably feeling obliged to make small talk since we'd just spent the best part of two hours resuscitating a plastic torso together. She had four kids, and the youngest was in Le Petit's grade: CP, the equivalent of first grade in the US. She told me the name of her son's teacher.
"Oh, my son is in the other class," I said, "With Madame..."
And then I drew a total blank.
I couldn't remember my son's teacher's name. I could picture her face, and clearly reassemble the classroom as I'd seen it one similar Saturday morning back in September when I and the other parents had squeezed into tiny desks in neat rows to listen to her back-to-school presentation. I remembered her precise handwriting on the blackboard. But I couldn't remember her name.
I started mumbling, searching lamely for some way to make it funny. Clearly I was making things worse for myself. Even my American accent which has saved me from many an embarrassing occasion in the past was no use here. What kind of excuse could one possibly cover for such a slip? Mère indigne, I stammered. Bad mommy.
"But I could tell you what page they are on in their reading workbook!" I wanted to add in my defense, but instead the other mother walked away, thanked the volunteer for their time, and coolly (or so I imagined) wished me a good weekend and good day. I said my thanks in turn and slinked out of the school building before anyone else could ask me any embarrassing questions.
Safe alone on the sidewalk, I called my husband.
"How'd it go? Did you meet any other parents?" he asked.
"It was... good," I paused. "Yes, I met one mom, but... she asked me Le Petit's teacher's name."
"I couldn't remember."
"You forgot Madame G---!" my husband shouted into the phone in astonishment. Then he paused, seemed to consider it for a moment, and added, "Yeah, that's pretty bad."
He wouldn't forget of course, and so for thirty seconds I was quite angry with him (though I kept it to myself). And he does just as much around the house, too, so so much for that as an explanation. He drops to kids off in the morning: he offered that lamely to try and make me feel better. Though how watching Le Petit disappear alone with his book bag into the front door of the elementary school every morning changes anything I'm not sure.
I went home, helped with lunch, did laundry, shopping, dishes, finished cleaning the apartment, played board games with the kids and helped put together a homemade Advent calendar. And I've managed to not feel quite so stupid and embarrassed about the incident by throwing myself into all that I have to get done, and some things I probably don't. Still, the name came to the front of my mind again and again as I was vacuuming or running around the Grand Canal: Madame G---. Madame G---.
"Why'd you forget Madame G---, maman?" Le Petit asked after he heard the story. He seemed more confused than hurt, at least. I didn't have a good excuse for him, either, but I could guarantee him, at least, that I wouldn't forget again.
Never sure how you're going to fall on your face next: I guess that's what keeps this parent gig interesting.
21 hours ago