Monday, June 22, 2009

Queen Trish: Using Her Powers for Good

Summer is here, and I’ll tell you the truth. I don’t miss getting four kids out the door to school by 8:00 every morning. I don’t miss worrying if the school uniforms are clean or if we have enough bread and peanut butter to scrape together a sandwich. I don’t miss the homework, the early bedtimes, or the onslaught of activity at 3:30 every afternoon after an otherwise peaceful day alone in my house.

But every summer, I do miss Trish.

(That is her real name, she told me I could use it.)

Trish is the most undersung hero at our kids’ school, holding the all-powerful role of school secretary.

Any parent who has ever forgotten a lunch, field trip forms, or bake sale money; any parent who has ever tried to pull a kid from school early the day before spring break; any parent who has ever wanted the rest of the story (including names) that only partially made it home from school knows what I’m talking about.

Trish is all that and a bag of chips (usually from Jimmy John’s). And one bad-ass mom.

When her older sons (1st and 2nd grade at the time) told her, during the ride home from school, about a classmate “doing it” with someone, she immediately asked, “Do either of you know what ‘doing it’ means?” Upon seeing their little heads shake side-to-side in the rearview mirror, she filled them in with details about “doing it.” Who, how, and with what. She had a captive audience in the back seat growing more and more nauseous, educating those boys like no nun ever had at their Catholic school and swearing them to secrecy within an inch of their lives.

As she pulled into the driveway she asked, “So, do you think your friend is really ‘doing it’ now?” They held back tears, squeaked out “no,” and ran to their rooms for the rest of the night. Voluntarily.

Years later, she had a similar conversation with her youngest boy, a 3rd-grader at the time, when he asked his mother on the way home from school if she had ever been hit in the balls at recess.

“I don’t have balls!” she laughed from the driver’s seat.

“You don’t have BALLS?” he said, wide-eyed with surprise and horror. “What do you HAVE then?”

This is the same son who, since he was five years old, had been trained by Trish to leave any lost teeth on the stairs leading up to his bedroom so the Tooth Fairy won’t have to wake him up at night (or forget to come up and make the swap before going to bed herself).

But my favorite Trish moment came while I was filling in for her at the secretary’s desk one morning.

A beautiful, sweet-looking young student walked into the office from recess, forcing tears out some very blue eyes. I noticed the little child’s face looked disappointed to see me, rather than Trish, sitting in the hot seat, but the kid stuck with the plan, saying, “I think I broke my elbow.”

I sat the child down and gently touched the allegedly afflicted appendage. My patient gave a B-movie performance (at best), with a delayed flinch and minor whimper.

Knowing this was a frequent flyer to the school office, I proceeded with caution. “Well, I can tell it hurts, but the good news is that it doesn’t look broken.”

Savvy to the inner-workings of Trish’s arsenal, the child pointed to the medical supply cabinet and said, “I think I need a cast. Can you look on the 3rd shelf down and get one for me?”

Having four kids of my own, I was not about to get played by this one. “You need a real doctor to put on a cast. Should we call your mom and have her take you to the emergency room?” I said with feigned concern, offering an ice pack instead.

This did not satisfy. We were at a deadlock.

Just then, the phone rang. Trish was on the line. I told her about her little fan and my failure to comply.

“Let me talk to the kid,” she said.

I handed the phone to the child who changed expressions to one of defeat.

This is what I heard on my end:

“Yes..... Yes…… Okay….. (looks up at me) Thank you Miss Jules (back to the phone)….. okay.”

And then they hung up.

“Miss Trish says I have to go back to my class now,” the child said, handing me the unused ice pack.

I stood there, dumbfounded, ice pack in hand, and watched the kid head out the door without another word.


When I grow up? I want to be just. like. her.

Dedicated to Miss Trish


can8ivjayhawk said...


Chris@Maugeritaville said...

Oh, Jules, I'll be the first to tell you that school secretaries are the most important person at school. Mine saves my fanny on a daily basis.

Thanks for sharing this, great story. Especially the frequent flyer. One afternoon at lunch, I got called out to the playground because one of our students (a known drama queen) said her leg was broken. I got out there and pretended to call the rescue helicopter on my cell phone.

Her leg healed very quickly.

la_vie_en_shoes said...

I'm not sure who I love more--you or Miss Trish! :-)

Thanks for sharing some of her stories--I hadn't heard the tooth fairy or sex ed ones.

Anonymous said...

So funny! I do have admiration for all the great school secretaries out there. A challenging job.

Tova Darling said...

Aww, she sounds great!

Diane J. said...

Great story! Too funny. Those secretaries deserve a medal. I had a mom thank me once (nope, not a secretary, just a cashier a long time ago). Her son was having a fit in the checkout lanes. His mother wasn't giving in to his demands (candy and some toy on one of the cashier lanes). I could tell she was at her wits end and, since all of us have been there ourselves, I took action. It was near Christmas time and I had heard the mom make reference to Santa not liking bad behavior. So, I leaned over and told the child, "You need to listen to your mom or I'll have to call Santa on my hotline." The child did not believe that I had a hotline to Santa, so I whipped out my phone which just so happened to be red and replied with "Okay, but Santa isn't going to like this." The child stopped his fit and asked me not to call. The mom thanked me. I wish someone would do that for me when my kids are acting up. I wonder if the secretaries will give me their cell phone numbers?

Jules said...

Thanks, guys! I'm glad you all enjoyed it. Chris, I had a feeling this might be one you, especially, could relate to, and Shoegirl, you know exactly what I'm talking about with the Queen of "Seriously?" Diane, I'm glad you stopped by!!