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Understanding Miss May

Molly was very protective of her daughter, as she was her only child. She even worked as a writer from home, so as to be near her the maximum possible time.  That had worked very well up to now.  But with Shelley starting pre-school, she was a bit more free to move out childfree now, at least in the mornings.  Molly's initial anxiety at leaving Shelley in the Cherry Tree Infant School was a little understandable.  Shelley had never even been to day care.  But the school was only down the road, and it was supposed to prepare the children well, in a pressure free environment, for the rigours of a real school curriculum.  So far, it was working well.

One day, however, Molly was surprised to see Shelley's little face looking downcast at the school gate.    Whatever the problem, Shelley was extremely reluctant to talk about it.

"Sandy is very bad.  Don't like Miss May!" she said.  After that day, Shelley showed a marked reluctance to attend school.  Molly was deeply perturbed.  She spoke to other mothers.  Most of them spoke glowingly of Miss May, the teacher who taught craft, singing and dancing.  A warm, smiling young woman, she seemed to be the picture of exactly what a nursery school teacher should be.  Obviously, something had happened in the school which had upset Shelley deeply.  So Molly dropped into the office of the school proprietor, Mrs. Jensen, who was deemed Principal of the school.

Mrs. Jensen expressed surprise that Shelley could be having problems.  There couldn't be a nicer teacher than Janet May.  And Shelley was an excellent child, well behaved and a little shy.  Perturbed, she called Miss May to the office.  Molly explained the situation, making it perfectly clear that she was simply here to get to the bottom of what was going on with her child.  She was in no way apportioning blame, but she was keen to understand what had unnerved Shelley so much. 

The rather plump, cheerful Miss May, smiling broadly as usual, greeted Molly.

"Good morning, Mrs. Richards"  and sat down beside her in front of the principal's desk.  Again Molly explained the story as impartially as possible.

"Oh, I remember the incident!" said Miss May.  "Actually, a few days ago I noticed Shelley hitting Sandy Wilson in the playground.  I'm afraid I had to scold her for that.  We do have to correct their bad behaviour, you understand," smiled Miss May sweetly.  Molly was somehow unsatisfied with this reply.

"Well, I spend a lot of time with Shelley, and I know that it is not in her nature to be aggressive.  Moreover, I know Sandy Wilson.  She's at least two years older than Shelley.  In fact, judging by her age she should have moved on to some other school by now.  Shelley is quite shy by nature, and she would not behave in this way with an older kid for nothing."  There was silence.  Miss May rolled her eyes and looked towards the principal.

"If we had a cent for every time a parent says that their child would never do that" said Mrs. Jensen, "We could afford to retire.  You'll just have to trust us on this one, Mrs. Richards.  If you have no faith in us, you may just as well take your child elsewhere.  But you'll find the same problem will occur again and again.  If you keep on trying to rescue your child everytime an unsatisfactory situation occurs, how will the child learn to cope with life? Molly knew that she would get no further satisfaction.  But she decided to persist just a little.

"All I know is that she loved school.  Now she hates it and has lost interest.  I'm not here to bother you people, but I would like to know what is the reason!"    Mrs. Jensen replied "Some children hate school at first, and grow to love it later.  Some, like   your Shelley, love it at first and then get bored when the novelty wears off. Give her some time.  I am sure she'll settle down."  Molly gave in.

"Okay," she said.  Janet May beamed again.

"Your little girl is a darling," she said.  "She's really the image of you.  Nothing of her father in her at all."  Molly was puzzled.

"You've met my husband?" she asked, not recalling Ryan, her husband, always busy with his work, ever coming near the school at all.  Miss May's smile disappeared and she looked embarrassed.

"Uh, I mean, she looks so like you that I can't imagine her looking like her father at all.  Yes!" she said, smiling again.  Molly collected her daughter at the regular time, and saw her being hugged goodbye at the gate by a still smiling Miss May.

Slowly, things returned to normal.  But another day, Shelley returned from school, again upset.  Eventually, through intensive questioning and listening carefully to the answers, Molly was able to understand what was going in in the school.  Sandy Wilson, it seemed, was a child who was rather cunning.  She would sneakily pinch a younger  child to invite retaliation.  When that child retaliated, usually in full view of the teachers, Sandy would howl loudly and get all the consolation.  Today, both  children had been  sent to the Principal's office, and Sandy was  given two toffees while Shelley  was soundly scolded and made say sorry.  Then a smug Sandy returned to the class, showing off the toffees.  Miss May, a trained teacher, seemed to do little to get to the bottom of this situation, and seemed to relish opportunities to get Shelley punished and scolded.   Molly was at her wits end. 

"I don't know what I should do!" she exclaimed to her husband Ryan one evening.  "I can't bear to go back to that school and having Janet May smiling into my face telling me that I don't know her school, she does!"  Ryan suddenly became alert.

"Janet May?" he said.  "Shelley's teacher is Janet May?"  Molly stared at him.  "You know her?" she asked.  "You know Janet May?"

"Sure.  She is a friend from school days.  You know, a gang of us, boys and girls, used to hang out together.  Nearly everyone paired off.  Janet and I always seemed to be paired together for some reason."  Molly couldn't believe her ears.

"Janet May was your girlfriend?"

"No way!" Ryan denied.  "We were just friends, that's all.  Oh, maybe we saw a movie together once or twice when I used to be home from college.  She was always around my house talking to my mom.  In fact," he added, "I remember Mom taking me to task one day, telling me that I'd better put that girl straight as to what my intentions were.  According to Mom, Janet thought she was my girlfriend, even if I didn't think so.  That was just before you and I met at that environmental conference."

"Is she there in any of your old photos?" asked Molly.

"Let's see!  She has to be!" said Ryan, an avid photographer, who had maintained and classified all sorts of photo albums since his teens.  The old schooldays album came out, complete with pictures of the gang at the beach, the gang on  a hike (again), the gang at bowling, and yes, sure enough, Janet May's face was in every one, smiling away.  Molly was surprised.  She had seen these pictures before, but had completely missed Janet.

She cast her mind back to that day in the school office and remembered how Janet had said that Shelley didn't look like her father.  So she had recognised Molly and Shelley as Ryan's wife and daughter.  She may indeed be bitter, feeling that Ryan had used and abused her friendship and finally dumped  her for someone else.  If this was the case, there was only one thing to do.

It wasn't difficult to move Shelley to another school.  As Molly explained to the Principal of Cherry Tree Infant School, she was simply moving to a nursery school nearer to her grandmother's house, so grandma  could collect her.  Molly was a lot busier these days, having taken on work, and her mother was lending a helping hand......

A few months later, on an Ash Wednesday in February, Molly decided to attend the evening service in her Church a couple of miles away, walking there and back to get some exercise.  She left Shelley, and Ryan who was not greatly into Church services, at home to prepare and eat a pizza.  Molly was fasting and would not be partaking of the treat.  On the way back, she stopped by a local delicatessen to purchase some cakes for the father and daughter duo, which she, Molly, would not be eating.  She was thinking deeply about the Pastor's talk on giving up sinful habits.  He had reminded the congregation that nursing a grudge was also a sinful habit, and that it was necessary to give up grudges in order to find peace.  Molly wished she could give up her anger at Janet May for victimising her child, but found it impossible.

"Mrs. Richards!"  She heard a familiar voice.   She looked around.  Sitting in the coffee shop inside the deli  was Janet May, with  a friend.  She  got up and walked over to Molly..

"I'm having coffee with a friend!  Would you care to join us?" she asked.  Molly nodded no, regretfully.

"Been at Church.  Gotta get back to hubs and the kid!  Thanks anyway!"  Janet May's face was full of genuine happiness.

"I'm engaged.  Getting married in the summer!" she said.  So that was why she looked so pleased!  Good!

"I really do wish you all the best, Miss May, on behalf of myself and my family.  I believe you know my husband  Ryan Richards.  He speaks very warmly of you, and the friendship you shared during his younger days."  Janet was taken by surprise for just a second.

"Oh, Ryan!  How nice of him," she replied.  Molly paid for her cakes, picked up her package, and warmly hugged  a surprised Janet May.

"Goodbye Miss May.  God bless you!" she said, and went on her way.

She felt happy and peaceful as she walked towards her home.

This post originally appeared on Write Away on WordPress on 8/12/2009

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