I went to Paolo's school holiday party yesterday afternoon. I had signed up to bring something because I'm involved like that. All the obvious picks were taken, like cookies, cupcakes, candy canes, cheese cubes, so I decided on baby pickles - sweet gherkins, to be exact. As I drove to school, bowl of pickles beside me, I started to second-guess the wisdom of my offering. Oh well, if the kids don't like them, they'll pass over them when they fill their tiny plates. No big deal. When I walked into the classroom, the children were already sitting at their tables with enough sugar on their plates to keep them awake until the ball drops on New Year's. I casually put the bowl down next to the other food and went to find Paolo. The teacher didn't catch my please-don't-notice-me-or-my-pickles vibe and loudly announced, HEY EVERYBODY, PAOLO brought PICKLES. That made me cringe because I don't think it's fair to drag Paolo into this. Give him a few years and he'll be begging me not to come to his school parties toting strange food: "My friends don't eat hummus. Please can't I just bring a bag of cheetos? Why do you hate me?"
The teacher walked around to each child offering BABY PICKLES! Aren't they CUTE? Many refused through mouthfuls of red and green frosting, some accepted out of curiosity, and some were forced to accept by their mothers. (Because dads? They don't go to school parties, the wimps.) By now you're probably wondering why I'm so worked up over introducing a measly bowl of pickles to a roomful of three-year-olds. It's not like I passed out raw garlic and tabasco soup. What's the worst that could happen? Well, I am in a position to tell you, because THE WORST is exactly what transpired.
All of the following happened in slow motion. The first children stuck out their tongues to taste their pickle, screwed up their faces, shuddered, and put the pickle back on their plates. The less hesitant took a bite and, perhaps feeding off of the anxiety of the other children, screamed in horror and flung their pickles across the table like live grenades. I didn't need to duck because I had already crawled under Paolo's chair in embarrassment. The most sensitive tots actually wept after taking a bite, and there's nothing grosser than a little kid sobbing with pickle juice and snot running down his face. In the midst of this chaos was my perfectly serene Paolo, snacking contentendly and asking if we were going home now. Yes, I think I've brought enough pain to this festive occasion.
The teacher told me later that some kids at her table enjoyed their pickles and requested more. It might even be true because just about a whole jar of sweet gherkins disappeared. But from where I was sitting (crouching), I turned a happy classroom Christmas party into Viet Nam.