The Peddlar

My Mother’s Day came early this year, actually.

On Friday I attended the Mother’s Day Tea at Alex’s kindergarten. 

I thought about bringing my camera, or our little DVD camera.  But I decided not to.  I didn’t want to be so wrapped up in getting good shots that I missed out on the actual event.  So no photos of Alex or the other little kids.

The mothers waited outside in the hallway until Mrs. Z, the kindergarten teacher (the most fabulous teacher in the universe), opened the door and told us to "form a straight line, no cutting" with a faint smile and a twinkle in her eyes.

One by one, she announced us:  "Alex’s mom is here!" and each mother’s child would come up to the door and escort (or drag) the mom to her tiny seat at one of the low tables throughout the room.  Each table was decorated with a pretty little tablecloth and a clay pot with flower-framed photos of the two children at that table.  At each mom’s place was a small pile of papers, on top of which was something like this:


Funny thing is, Bill is usually the one who cooks the rice in our strange and glorious division of kitchen duties by food and part of the world.  Except I make the risotto.  Which Alex doesn’t like.

Anyway, there were a few copies of tear-jerky poems with child-sized handprints, but since they weren’t actual handprints made by Alex, they didn’t jerk my tears at all.

There was a storybook he apparently thought up and illustrated. 

And there was my mug.


That’s his name…a blue swordfish, a red giant squid (which he pronounces "squood"), and an octopus, all swimming above some seaweed.


And that black thing is a shark, and there’s a snail and the gray thing with a pointy arrow thing is a stingray.  And down at the bottom, not that his class studied them at all during their Ocean Creatures month, but those are Patrick and Sponge Bob.   


And up high is a blue jellyfish, and way over on the top right, a penguin (I think)…then a blue whale, and underneath, a lobster and a crab.

Hee hee hee!

Anyway, the "Tea" began with a kind of demo of how the class begins every day – first a Helper is chosen, and this person helps out with listing the day of the week, the date, the weather, and so on…they practice their reading words…take a head count of girls and boys and then the total…all of them sitting in their places on the rug in front of the board.

Next they sang a bunch of songs, and after each song, Mrs. Z focused on some other part of the song – like, "And what punctuation mark is this?"  "And what does it mean?"  and so on.  They sang with gusto, especially songs like "Polar Bear, Polar Bear, Do You Wear Long Underwear?" 

After about 8 songs, they launched into the acting portion of the event.  I’d been waiting for this.  I overheard Alex reciting a familiar line from a book I remember seeing on The Captain Kangaroo show, of all things, and when I mentioned the book to him, he sort of froze, and then said they were "doing" that book for the Mother’s Day Tea.

Anyway, a few kids were called up and held up sea creature masks, while the kids sang the song for it…(in which, one by one, sea creatures eat smaller sea creatures and are then eaten by the next sea creature up the food chain.  It ends with a humonguous whale who burps.  Naturally it is a hit with the kids.)  Then there was a song about astronauts…and then…the moment I had been waiting for.

51yexvgwzpl__sl160_aa115_ Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina.

And Alex was the Peddlar.

"Caps!  Caps for Sale!  Fifty cents a cap!"

Four other kids wore monkey masks and perched on top of a table, behind a small tree. 

As Mrs. Z read the story from a huge copy of the book perched on an easel, Alex recited all the peddlar’s lines and acted out his portion of the story.

It was adorable, and yeah, of course it was adorable because it was my own kid, but also – just – the little sweet voice of a five-year-old (almost six!) portraying that of the increasingly annoyed peddlar as he tries to get the monkeys to give him back his caps (which, SPOILER ALERT! they stole while he was sleeping under the tree) is priceless. 

Oh – and the caps?  They used five straw cowboy hats.

Anyway, the peddlar falls asleep under the tree and the monkeys steal all but the peddlar’s own cap.  Then they stick around up in the tree to taunt him, basically, as he demands the caps back:

"You monkeys, you!  Give me back my caps!"  And the monkeys, of course, just make noises at him.  So he gets angrier and angrier.

First, as he’s hollering (in such a tiny little stage-frightened-but-the-show-must-go-on sort of voice!) again and again "You monkeys, you!  Give me back my caps!" he shakes one fist.  Then two.  Then he stamps one foot.  Then two (jumping up and down), until finally, he throws his hat down in frustration and, (ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT!) the monkeys copy him and throw down all the hats they’d taken. 

I can hear Alex’s little peddlar voice…and see him shaking fists and stamping…or – earlier in the story – just walking around on the carpet, hawking his wares. 

It was the most wonderful production I have ever seen.

Anyway, there were some more skits after that, and some songs about mothers, and another really great song called "I am a pizza" – the second verse was sung in French – and then finally the kids all got to join the moms and eventually we had either tea or coffee (in our mugs) and some cookies and brownies and Dunkin Munchkins.  Mrs. Z had impressed upon the kids that they could take ONE OF EACH item, rather than as many as they could hold. 

So we sat together and ate our sugar and drank our beverages and I couldn’t even think of a thing to say because I was just smiling too hard and my face sort of froze like that for a while. 

And when we were finished with our snacks, we gathered up our things, and said goodbye to his teachers, and headed to the car.

On our way out the door, Mrs. Z said something like "And didn’t our little peddlar do a great job?" and I agreed heartily, and she said "We can always count on Alex."  And I wished her a happy mother’s day, and that was the end of the Mother’s Day Tea.

And besides imagining ways he might phrase his "thank you" to me when he accepts his first Oscar, or Tony, I felt kind of happy and content and good about life right then, because it’s nice to know Alex is someone they can count on.  He told me that morning that he was nervous about performing in front of all the moms.  Actually, he told me that several times over the few days leading up to the Tea.  And I told him just to look at me when he was saying his lines, and pretend no one else was there.  But when it came time to do it, he didn’t look at me.  He just did his job, tiny voice and all.

Afterward, he told me he didn’t think he was loud enough for all the moms to hear.  And I know that feeling.  Like your mouth is forming the words, but instead of coming out, they seem to drift back down your throat, no matter how hard you try to project them.  But actually, I think he was heard just fine.  All the moms were silent.  For every kid who spoke a word or a sentence or made monkey noises that day.  All the moms silently cheering on every kid.

It was a lovely Tea.

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