Episode 034

Melinda’s Story

Saturday morning, Sarah and I made sure to arrive at the Arts Center extra early so we could meet our parents. As soon as we entered the gallery, a miniature version of Sarah flew towards us. Crystal hugged us each in turn before signing to her sister.

Sarah interpreted for me. “Crystal says she’s super excited to be here and she missed you. Wait. What about me?”

“I saw you three weeks ago. I haven’t seen her—she means you Melinda—in forever.”

“It has not been that long. Besides, you barely know her.”

Sarah’s parents must have sensed an argument brewing, because they immediately greeted me, subtly placing themselves between their daughters. Sarah took her family on a quick tour of the building before class and we agreed to meet in our usual spot second period.

Where were my parents? I checked the time on my phone. There was a text from my mother. They had left later than they had hoped and were now stuck in traffic. They should be here by the end of the period.

I sent a quick message telling them where they should wait for me and headed upstairs to my class.

As the class was ending, I turned back to the table to pack my belongings and noticed my family entering the building below. When I called ot them, I saw them searching in all directions, trying to find the origin to my echoes.

“Up here!” When the returned my wave, I pointed beneath the loft. “You guys go sit on the couches. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

I ran my portfolio upstairs to my flute locker before going back downstairs. I greeted my parents with extra big hugs. I had missed them more than I realized. I even gave Joey an awkward hug before I gestured for everyone to sit.

My dad sighed. “Sorry we’re late.”

I waved a dismissive hand. “Don’t worry about it. You only missed my art class and there  weren’t many parents there anyway. You would have been bored, sitting there watching me draw.”

Joey made a sound that suggested I was right before returning his attention back to his phone. My mother frowned at him before turning back to me.

“So, what’s on the schedule for today?”

“Oh, wait!” I removed my homework folder from my bag and handed my mother the color-coded schedule I had drafted during second study hours.

“Here you go! We’re going to hang out here for a while and you can meet my roommate and her family. Is that okay?”

“Of course. I’d love to meet your friends.”

Crystal came rushing into the room from the direction of the stairwell. I didn’t see Sarah or her parents anywhere. Crystal ran straight to me, signing frantically.

My mother sent me a concerned look. “Is she alright? Do you know her?”

“Yeah. Hang on a sec.” Sarah had only taught me a handful of phrases in American Sign Language. I sighed slow a few times until Crystal stopped. She smiled at me and signed something I thought might have been forgot.

I knew Crystal could read my lips, but I needed to speak clearly at my normal speed. Never breaking eye contact, I pointed to myself, then made the sign for mother before pointing in her direction. “Crystal, this is my mother. And this is my father.” I sighed father, then brother. “And that’s my brother.”

Crystal giggled, shaking her head as she pointed to Joey. She repeated the sign I just did, still shaking her head. Then, she made a similar sign while nodding. I understood. I had called Joey my sister.

There you are!”

I turned to see Sarah and her parents rushing towards us. Her mother was signing as she spoke. “We were looking all over for you.”

Sarah explained Crystal’s reply for me. “She said she wanted to tell you all about the music class. But,” she turned back to her sister, “she can’t understand you.”

Crystal shrugged, signing something in reply. The girls began signing so furiously to each other, I wasn’t sure how they saw each other’s hand. Their father quickly interrupted them, signing as he spoke.

“Melinda. Are these your parents?”

“Oh, yeah. Mom, Dad. This is Mr. and Mrs. Tran.”

Everyone shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. The adults began discussing the traffic snarl that had delayed my parents, so Sarah explained her music class to me. Apparently, they had done some sort of experiment where the students and their families could feel the music in their hands and bodies. Crystal had been so excited about the experiment, she had rushed out of class to tell me all about it. Sarah and her parents had stayed behind to talk to the teacher, so they hadn’t realized that she had run off.

At the end of the free period, we said goodbye to Sarah’s family and I led my parents across the lawn to the Science Center. My physics teacher had placed chairs along the outer edge of the room for our family members, but Joey decided to sit at my table instead.

While he played on his phone, I spent the next half hour listening to my teacher discuss gravity. I was glad to have read the assignment last night. His lecture was difficult to follow.

After class, I gave my parents a quick tour of the building, showing them the lab where we did our experiments and the giant pendulum at the bottom of the spiral staircase. I ended the tour in my favored fishbowl lounge, a room with a round window looking into the corridor opposite a bank of large windows looking outside towards the language building.

My family and I settled into the overstuffed leather chairs while we waited for the end of the period. My mother smiled at me.

“So, how are your classes going? I had absolutely no idea what Mr.—What’s his name again?”

“Mr. Wilson.”

My mother nodded. “I had absolutely no idea what he was saying. Did you?”

I shrugged. “Pretty much. I found that if I do the reading ahead of time, it makes it a little easier to understand what’s going on in class. My study partner is really good at understanding things and explains anything I don’t get in the reading. By the time I get to class, I can usually follow what’s going on.”

My dad looked impressed. “That’s pretty smart. But, I guess that’s why you’re here.”

My mother changed the subject. “So, tell me about your friends. We’ve met Sarah. When will we meet the others?”

Hopefully never? I shrugged. “I’m not too sure. Walter’s in my Latin class, you I guess you’ll meet him there. Anyone else? You’ll probably just meet them when we run into them.”

Joey looked up from his phone. “When’s lunch? I’m starving.”

My dad checked his watch. “It’s a quarter after ten. How can you be hungry?”

Joey shrugged. “I’m always hungry.”

I just shook my head and spent the rest of the free period telling my parents about my dance class and the Nutcracker performance.

I brought my parents to the auditorium a little early so we could have the comfy chairs. Folding chairs had been brought into the room to accommodate the extra people, but I wanted to sit in the cushy executive chairs. Walter showed up early enough to grab the chair beside me.

I swiveled my seat to look at my parents. “Mom, Dad, this is Walter. He’s my study partner. And my CCD mentor. Walter, these are my parents. And Joey.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Luzzelli.”

My mother smiled. “You too. We’ve heard so much about you.”

Walter sent me a quizzical look. “Really?”

I was mortified, of course, but my father was looking around. “Are you by yourself today?”

Walter shrugged. “For now. My parents are shadowing my brother today, but I spent time with them last night, so I don’t mind.”

Walter looked like he wanted to say more, but the room was filling up and our deans were standing by the podium in the center of the sunken lecture hall.

Sally and Mr. Birkenhead spent most of the meeting telling our parents many of the things they had told us during orientation. I mostly tuned them out.

When we were dismissed, Walter and I led my parents to the language building. Behind me, I heard my brother.

“Is that Patrick McGregor?”

I looked where my brother was pointing. Sure enough, Pat was walking with his parents along the path that led from the Art Center towards the dorms. I glanced at Walter. His eyes were wide with fear and his neck was turning red. I turned back to my brother.

“Well, I did see Patrick McGregor in the dining hall last night. It looked like he’s a student here. He probably has a humanities class right now.”

“Like history,” Walter added.

My brother’s eyes lit up. “That’s awesome. Do you think I can ask him for an autograph. Oh! Do you think his parents are here for Parent’s Weekend? Maybe I can get their autographs!”

I rolled my eyes. “Joey! I am NOT going to just walk up to another student and ask for his autograph when he’s just trying to go to his classes. Do you KNOW how rude that is?”

My father nodded. “Melinda’s right. If the McGregors are here today, they’re students and parents just like everyone else. We can ask for their autographs later.” He sent Joey a conspiratorial wink.

Walter opened the door with a sigh. I gave him a sympathetic tap on the arm as I led the way into the building. Our small classroom felt even more cramped with so many parents. I was glad neither Walter nor the sixth-former had brought their parents to class.

My teacher, however, didn’t seem to notice the extra bodies. He conducted the class as he if it were any normal day.

At the end of the period, Walter parted ways with my family after we passed through the science center. We met up with Sarah’s family as we approached the math building.

Crystal sat herself beside me while everyone else sat in the chairs behind us. I tried to follow what my teacher was doing on the board, but Joey’s game was too loud. When I turned to him, I realized it wasn’t his game. Crystal was playing the same game as my brother.

I waved my hand in front of the screen to get her attention. When she looked at me, I pointed at the phone, then my ear then the phone again. I had no idea what I had actually signed, but Crystal must have understood. She muted the game and rubbed her fist over her chest in the sign I thought might have been sorry.

As we headed to the final class of the day, I told Joey that Crystal was playing his favorite game.

“Really? Cool.” He turned to her. “What level you on?”

I was going to remind him he had to make sure Crystal was looking at him to read his lips, but he had already started making gestures. He showed her his phone, pointing out what level he was currently attacking alien donuts, or whatever the game was about. Crystal held up her own phone with a proud smile.

Joey gave an exasperated sigh. “Oh man! But, how’d you beat level 150? I’ve been stuck on it for days!”

While Sarah and I was busy discussing Odyssey with my English class, our siblings managed to occupied themselves by sharing their game.

Melinda’s Journal

Saturday, October 20

Ron D Vu

I see you

        Standing by the door

You and me

Did agree

        To meet there at four.

It’s funny the poems you can remember from childhood. My sixth grade teacher had us memorize this poem to help us remember the definition of the word.

Parents’ Weekend has got me thinking about rendezvous. People having planned and unplanned meetings after classes let out. It has been a very interesting day.