TB or Not TB: Perfect Attendance Nuts Don’t
It doesn’t win me any points with the other mommies, but I
tend to loudly yell “Booooooo!” and make lots
of exaggerated thumbs-down gestures whenever a kid skips up to the
stage to receive a perfect attendance certificate at the end of the
Sure, it’s a little unorthodox --- some might even say
rude --- but I don’t think it’s any ruder than risking
every body else’s health just so you can get a stupid
fill-in-the-blank award certificate from Office Depot. You know
what our little family got for your kid’s perfect attendance?
The month of March with a scaly rash and violently unpredictable
Well. You asked.
Perfect attendance awards are usually presented at that tasty
combo platter that is the year-end assembly, awards presentation,
fifth-grade graduation, and nacho bar. It gores my ox every single
year. Hence the booing.
“What’s wrong with you?” asked my
fitness-freak mommie friend. I try not to hate her because she
always arrives breathless from something called spinning class. For
the longest time, I thought she was doing something with yarn but
then I found out there’s actually a class where all you do is
sit in a room and ride a bike that doesn’t go anywhere. You
need a class for that? How about breathing in and out? Need a class
for that, too?
Fitness mommie was pissed at me. She would need to do a few
dozen downward-facing dogs and journal for at least an hour to
“You just booed a child. Who does
“Boooooooo!!!” Guess she got her
“Stop it! Those kids are going to get their feelings hurt.
Here. Have some edamame. It’ll keep your mouth
Fitness mommie is always able to wrestle huge Ziploc bags of
edamame from her purse at any given time. I just laugh because I
grew up surrounded by soybean fields and hog corn, both utterly
useless when faced with actually needing to prepare food.
But now edamame is every damn where and I am so over it.
As the guidance counselor gave with the left and shook with the
right, and the proud kid with the wet, hacking cough blew his nose
on his shirt and waved happily to the crowd, I turned to
“He’s a snot factory. Same as the rest of them. Look
at ’em. They’re so stressed out trying to get that
perfect attendance certificate that now half the third grade has
fifth disease. If it weren’t for kids like him, there
probably wouldn’t have ever been a first through fourth
disease. Hey! Thanks for coming to school with a
hundred-and-three-degree fever, loser!”
Edda scurried away to find another seat but I just raised my
voice. Like a crazy person.
“Look at that woman with the camcorder,” I hissed to
no one in particular. “Her kid hasn’t missed a day in
five years. I heard his appendix burst one Thursday and she told
him ‘Don’t be such a pussy; that’s what weekends
are for.’ ”
The parents drive this craziness, you know. Oh, sure, by about
sixth grade, the kid has totally bought into it: Must. Have.
Meaningless. Certificate. But it’s the parents’ fault
in the beginning.
I know a woman who got a little brass lapel pin for never
missing a day of school all the way through twelfth grade.
“I went to school with measles,” she said
ruefully one day. “Can you imagine?”
Hell, no! I laid out of school if there was a freakin’
wedding on Another World. Fortunately, my mother
understood this addiction and cheered me on.
“Let me write a note,” she’d say.
I usually handled the note-writing because, to my mother,
actually laying out of school to see Rachel get married yet again
was a perfectly logical excuse.
“No, no!” I’d say. “We can’t tell
the truth! It needs to be something really dramatic, something
nobody wants to really follow up on.”
Fetching notepaper from a kitchen cabinet and plopping into a
recliner, I’d compose an entirely respectable letter to the
teacher that usually included the phrase “agonizing pain
emanating from her females.”
(In the South, and perhaps elsewhere, a girl or woman refers to
her inner workings as her “females.” I have never heard
a man call his workings his “males,” but it
wouldn’t bother me particularly.)
Over the years, my friends and I had gotten extremely clever
with the writing of sick notes. I like to think it was the start of
my professional writing career. Only then, I was paid in Sugar
Daddys or Black Cows. Some people are born to greatness; others
have it thrust upon them. So it was that most of the dumbasses in
my class would come to me for a great sick note. One showed me a
note her mother had scribbled.
“Nobody’s gonna believe this. It don’t even
make sense,” whined Opal-Anne.
The note was truly awful and, no, it didn’t make no sense
at all. Written in Opal-Anne’s mama’s sad little
scrawl, it read, “Please accuse Opal from gym class. Her
period has done swooped down on her.”
From that day forward, I always thought of menstruation as a
huge hawk that would dig its wrinkled yellow feet into your scalp
for five to seven days a month and just sit there going “Caw!
Caw!” or whatever the hell noise hawks make.
My mother’s willingness to be a coconspirator on keeping
me out of school for important weddings of TV characters has
carried over to the raising of my own precious cherub, Sophie, who
gets much of her own health information and life guidance from TV,
just as her mother did before her. Family traditions are sacred,
Sophie’s getting a crash course on some of this stuff now
that the nightly news has informed me that one in four teenage
girls has a sexually transmitted disease.
All together now: “Ewwwww.”
Naturally, I summoned the Princess to the TV so she could hear
it from Brian Williams’ own mouth.
“Mooooommmmm,” was the response, accompanied by a
big eye roll. “That’s gross.”
“Indeed it is, little missy,” I said.
It’s hard to believe my baby is going to middle school in
a few weeks. It seems like only yesterday I was lying to
kindergarten teachers about having to go out of town on business
just so I could avoid having to bake shamrock-shaped cupcakes.
And it really was just yesterday when the school nurse
called to say that the Princess had thrown up during Human Growth
and Changes class.
“Some students are just more sensitive than others to
these videos,” the perky nurse explained as I applied a wet
Brawny towel to Soph’s pale forehead. “One little boy
I looked at the nurse for a few seconds and realized that I
should choose my words carefully. I am, after all, a mature
“What kind of perverted shit are y’all showing these
Yeah. I said it just like that. I’m pretty sure the nurse
was considering recommending me for in-school suspension but she
knew my lumpy ass would never fit in that tiny desk.
Listen. I happen to believe that schools don’t need to be
in the business of teaching sex education to children.
That’s what TV is for.
Which is why I’m making sure the Princess learns
everything she needs to know from a trusted, reliable source that
stresses consequences: One Tree Hill on the CW
It’s like Human Growth and Changes, only it has an actual
plot and the music is sick!
The Princess and I watch One Tree Hill together, which
is my own way of educating her about nasty stuff. Sure, it’s
a slightly unorthodox approach, but OTH covers everything
she needs to know: the perils of unprotected sex, the perils of
drugs, the perils of ignoring the creepy Goth kid, the perils of
cheating at love and basketball --- it’s all there.
Plus it’s filmed in my hometown so I’m partial to
its addictive charms.
My idea? Ditch Human Growth and Changes and show the
OTH episode where Nathan had a suspicious discharge. Or
maybe that was Brooke. No, it was Rachel. Whatever --- you’d
be scared straight.
I signed my traumatized Princess out for the day and drove
I tucked her into bed, gave her a mug of tomato soup with a big
crouton in the center, popped in the Cinderella III DVD,
and promised her that she would never have to see a video about
When he got home from work, duh-hubby, naturally, was thrilled
to hear that sex education class had made his daughter sick. Men
are so predictable.
One thing was for sure. Neither Soph nor the unfortunate little
boy who had fainted during the sex-ed video (the little boy whom my
husband likes to call “my future son-in-law”) would get
perfect attendance awards. Not that she was ever in any danger of
Back in the assembly, watching the idiot parents fist- bumping
and high-fiving was making me sick.
I was grateful that I didn’t have to go to school with
measles, like my friend did all those years ago.
The very word “measles” just scares the shit out of
me every time I hear it. I had measles when I was six and remember
it being a round-the-clock “itchy and scratchy” show.
Plus, it gives you rabbit eyes and the virus means you can
contaminate unborn babies and make them come out with extra noses
or, worse, as Republicans.
“I can’t believe what I went through to get that
stupid pin,” she said. “My parents were
OK, that was actually me that said that last part.
Giant, self-absorbed a-holes. Hey! You know where most of the
kids with perfect attendance pins are these days? Me neither!
Harvard doesn’t give a shit, I’m guessing. Think
about it; you have an award for simply showing up where you were
I just read about a Michigan teenager’s parents who gave
her a new car for having never missed a day of school from
kindergarten through senior year. The family told reporters that
she made it every day even “despite colds.”
Who’d have thought it? Colds in Michigan!
I hear they’re spread by being sneezed on by sick
people who come to school just so they can get a stinkin’
Pontiac. And all the edamame in the world isn’t going to make
you feel better.
Some people swear by chicken soup for a cold but my mama’s
vegetable- beef soup works best for me and mine.
CURE-WHAT-AILS-YOU VEGETABLE-BEEF SOUP
My friend Susan uses this basic recipe but substitutes 93
percent lean ground beef for the beef stew. Susan is a true friend,
arriving with a gallon of soup, a bottle of wine that she bought at
an actual wine store, and a box of Sam’s Club frozen
chocolate éclairs on my doorstep one evening when she heard I
was feeling puny. She so rocks.
2 pounds (more or less) beef stew
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups beef broth
1 or 2 potatoes, cut into chunks
3 carrots, sliced
5 cups water
1 medium can tomato sauce
2 cans tomatoes
3 teaspoons salt
1 (10-ounce) bag each frozen lima beans, corn, cut green beans,
and (optional) okra
In large pot, saute beef stew with onion and celery in 2
tablespoons olive oil until beef is browned; drain off nearly all
the fat, but leave a little in the pot for flavor. Remove beef,
onion, and celery from pot and set aside. Pour broth into the same
pot and cook potatoes and carrots a few minutes in the broth until
they’re softened. Return the beef, onion, and celery to the
pot along with water, tomato sauce, tomatoes, salt, and frozen
veggies. Simmer for at least a couple of hours; longer is better.
In the last 20 minutes, you can throw in some uncooked rice or
noodles if you want it to be even heartier. Serve with hot
cornbread or saltine crackers if you’re pinched for time and
drained of energy.
Excerpted from YOU CAN’T DRINK ALL DAY IF YOU DON’T
START IN THE MORNING © Copyright 2011 by Celia Rivenbark.
Reprinted with permission by St. Martin’s Griffin. All rights