Monday, February 8, 2010

Graduation Night: The Wrath of Big Bird

In high school, I had an 11 p.m. curfew that I'd strategically negotiated to 1 a.m. on the night that Hopkins graduated. Those negotiations went something like this: "But MOM, I have a daaaaate. For the graduation party. With HOPKINS! I wanna goooo, how can you embarrass me like thiiis? Eleven? That's like, a baby curfew! C'mon, MOM, puhleeeze, I will NEVER, EVER ask to stay out that late EVER again! PLEASE!"

The selling point was that it was Hopkins. Had it been any other boy in the solar system, I wouldn't have succeeded in wheedling the extra two hours. My mother trusted him, plus she knew he was intimidated by her- and he knew if she thought there was any of what she termed 'monkey business', she would be on the phone to his mother like a shot.

All in all, the party was sort of dull. Around midnight, everybody started clearing off, which was fine except for a few things no one had taken into consideration earlier: the ground was soft, we were parked in the yard in high, damp grass, and there was a sharp incline to get to the driveway from there. While trying to manuever the Mouse (a stick-shift, battleship-grey 1970-something Honda Civic) out of this predicament, Hopkins backed into and tapped the bumper of the girls' basketball captain's new Mustang. I stood there, ankle-deep in cold, wet grass, as I argued that the Mouse didn't weigh enough nor was it going fast enough to have damaged her car. On closer inspection, she agreed, and we were soon off to Chez Airedaleparent.

We made it to the house a little before my curfew, so we decided to sit there and talk for a while. In the course of the conversation, the weather conditions and the Mouse conspired against us, resulting in foggy windows. We saw the porch light flip on, and a blurry creature that looked for all the world like a determined Big Bird bore down on the Mouse. There was sharp knock on the passenger window. I rolled it down.

Looming there in her bright yellow bathrobe was my mother, tapping on her watch. "Do you have any idea what time it is? Oh, hello, Hopkins, shouldn't you be leaving soon? You have fifteen minutes and then I expect her in the house." She pivoted and flap-flap-flapped back inside, mercifully without comment about the steamed-up windows. The porch light went off. I put the window back up; we started talking again.

I'm not really sure how long it was, but it was more than fifteen minutes later, because this time we were so engrossed in the conversation that we failed to notice the ominous harbinger of the porch light. Before we clued in, Big Bird was at the driver's side, knocking on the window. Hopkins rolled down the window and my mother confronted him. "Young man, do you have any idea what time it is?" I heard him swallow dryly before he answered, honestly, "No, ma'am, I'm not wearing a watch."

"Well, it is considerably past one o'clock and I am quite sure your parents are wondering where you are at this hour. I expect my daughter inside in fifteen minutes."

He nodded mutely. She turned and flapped off again. A few seconds later, we were talking again, and pretty soon, well...it was nearly dawn. The porch light came on. Big Bird was on the move once more.

"You'd better go in this time, or she'll call my mother," Hopkins stammered. "Besides," he added dismally, "I have chores."

This time she opened the passenger door and announced, "This is IT, young lady, it's 5:30 in the morning. You have exactly five minutes to say your goodbyes and get inside. Your father is awake and you do not want me to send him out."

I was inside before the five minutes were up. Except for the requisite phone call to Hopkins' parents to determine that in his sleep-deprived state, he'd made it home okay, she never said a word to me about it...which proves that she was pretty cool despite the Big Bird bathrobe.

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