Of Murder at the PTA by Laura Alden
For the third time I tried to type “PTA Meeting Minutes” and for the third time, I managed to spell PTA wrong. PAT. ATP. TPA.
“Rats.” I sighed, rubbed my eyes, and pushed away from the computer. What on earth was I doing, sitting here in the study while my children were outside playing? Clearly, too much computer and not enough play were making Beth a dull girl.
I grabbed a spring jacket and headed outside. Before the back door even shut, I could heard the grunts of a seven year-old boy, indicative of the efforts he was making to climb our maple tree.
“Come on, Oliver, you’re almost there.” My daughter, Jenna, four years senior to her brother, was already up in the broad branches. “Get your foot flat on the tree. Yeah, like that. A little higher, then swing the other leg over. Hey, you did it! Mom, look, Oliver’s up in the tree!”
I whistled and clapped until my palms tingled. Oliver had been trying to climb that tree for two years with no success. “This calls for a dessert of brownies!”
The kids beamed through the tree branches, two Cheshire cat grins, one wide as a country mile until… “Um, Jenna?” Oliver asked. “How do I get down?”
Jenna talked him through the dismount while I kept my hands in my pockets. Only when he was safe on the ground did I release the breath I’d been holding.
“Here, Mom!” Oliver ran over to me, pressed a maple leaf into my hand, and ran off again.
I stroked the green lobes as gently as if they’d been the hair of a newborn baby. Who would have thought such a simple gift could have such emotion attached?
As I twirled the leaf by its stem, I started wondering if I'd ever given my own mother a leaf. When I was a child, had I ever thought to give her anything? And what could I give her now? There wasn’t anything she needed, and she already had a houseful of things she didn’t particularly want.
Jenna and Oliver switched from tree climbing to flopping on the lawn and watching ants. I sat with them for a few minutes, then said, “I’ll be back in a little bit, kids,” and went inside and dialed the phone.
“Hi, Mom. No, nothing’s the matter. Just wanted…well, I just wanted to say I love you.”