Authors: Allison Gutknecht
For Mom and Dad,
WHO TAUGHT ME SO MANY LESSONS
(UNFORTUNATELY, JUST NOT THE ONE ABOUT THE POLKA-DOT UNDERWEAR)
Many thanks to
ALYSON HELLER, CHARLIE OLSEN, AND THE TEAMS AT ALADDIN AND INKWELL FOR UNDERSTANDING THE IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE: GUMMY BEAR FLAVORS, PRESIDENTIAL PAGEANT RIVALRIES, AND A WELL-âPLACED “WAHOO!”
I KEEP TELLING MOM ABOUT
the White Pants, and she says to wear them anyway.
“They will make me fall down,” I explain.
“Pants do not make you fall down, Amanda,” Mom answers, because she does not understand anything at all.
“Yes, they do.” I stomp my foot and cross my arms and put on my very best “I am pouting now” face. “White pants like dirt, and they will make me fall in it.”
“Then be extra careful at recess, please,” Mom says, holding the awful pants open for me to step in.
Mom sighs a big gust of breath in my face and stares at me with her “I mean business” eyes. “Amanda Berr, I am going to count to three.”
“I will get ketchup on them,” I say.
“OneÂ .Â .Â .”
“I will drop marker on them,” I say.
“TwoÂ .Â .Â .”
I groan like a dinosaur and lift up one leg just so Mom will stop counting.
“Here is a deal,” I begin. “I will wear these awful white pants if you buy me periwinkle pants.” My favorite color is periwinkle. It is more beautiful than blue and more perfect than purple and it is a fun name to say. But I do not have one piece of periwinkle clothing, and I think this is
unfair. I checked my whole entire closetâshirts and shorts and dresses and ugly fancy blouses that Mom keeps in plastic until Easter. No periwinkle. I had held my periwinkle crayon from my box of 152 colors up to each piece, just to be sure. And still nothing.
“I'll look for some,” Mom says, shaking the white pants in front of me.
“Today,” I insist. “I want periwinkle pants today.”
“I cannot get you periwinkle pants today,” Mom says. “Why can't you just like a nice, normal colorâlike pink? How about if I get you pink pants?”
“I hate pink.”
pants aren't pink.” Mom shakes the pants even more ferociously.
I grab the pants in my own two hands then. “I will dress myself. I am not a baby,” I say.
“Fine,” Mom answers. “Be downstairs and dressed in five minutes, Amanda. And in
pants. I don't have time for any more funny business today.”
So I stuff my legs into the pants and stomp down to the kitchen table, and Mom does not even say,
Thank you for wearing the awful white pants, Mandy.
Mandy is my real name even though Mom thinks it is Amanda. I do not like the name “Amanda” because it does not have any
s in it, and this is a tragedy. I like to make
s with curlicue tails and I cannot do this when there are no
s in my name, so this is why my name is Mandy and
“Finish up your cereal, Amanda,” Mom says. “Your bus will be at the corner in ten minutes. Hurry.”
“I cannot hurry because of these pants,” I tell her.
“Don't be ridiculous,” Mom responds, which I think is pretty rude, if I am being honest.
“I am being serious,” I insist. “If I eat quickly, I will dump the cereal onto the pants and they will be dirty because white pants love dirt. I told you so already.” I lift one kernel of cereal onto my spoon very slowly and raise it toward my mouth, just to show Mom how careful I have to be.
“If you want to eat that way, it's up to you,” Mom says. “But you only have five more minutes to do so, Amanda.”
“Mandy,” I remind her, but she does not correct herself. Mom is not such a good listener. She was not such a good listener ever, but she is even worse now that the twins are here. Everything in this house for the past five months has been about the twins:
“The twins are hungry.”
“Don't be noisy, you'll wake the twins.”
“Aren't the twins adorable?”
The twins are not adorable. They're damp. “Damp” is my new favorite wordâmy teacher, Mrs. Spangle, taught it to us during our science lesson. It means when something is just a little bit wet. And the twins are always just a little bit wet. Their diapers are wet or their drool is wet or their food is wet. They're damp. Like that washcloth that is still damp the next morning even though it's had the whole entire night to dry from your bath. And damp things are gross, I've decided.
Mom says it's not nice to call the twins “gross.” She says I have to call them “Samantha and Cody,” but most of the time, she's not paying enough attention to see if I do, so I don't.
My little brother Timmy also hardly gets any attention anymore, but I don't mind that so much. Because he's pretty gross too.
“Oof, Cody is wet again.” Mom pats the diaper on one of the twins and lifts him up. He starts to wail then, because all the twins like to do is cry and get even damper.
They are pretty terrible, if I am being honest.
“Amanda, can you get yourself to your bus stop?” Mom calls over her shoulder on her way to the twins' room.
“I'm eight,” I answer, because Mom forgets that I am not a baby. I know important things like how to get to my bus stop and how to read books without pictures in them and how to cookâwell, to pour cereal, which is pretty much the same thing.
“Don't forget your lunch box!” Mom calls from the twins' room. “It's on the counter.” I swirl the rest of my cereal around in the bowl and try to splash a little on my pants so I can change them. “Hurry, Amanda!”
I groan like a dinosaur again and pick my
Rainbow Sparkle lunch box up off the counter. Rainbow Sparkle is who I want to be when I grow up: She is fast and she is funny and she has purple eyes, which is what I want to have (hers are almost periwinkle, only not quite). I'm stuck with brown eyes and brown hair, when all I want are beautiful purple eyes and silky white hair like Rainbow Sparkle's.
Rainbow Sparkle is a cat, if I forgot to mention. She has her own show on TV.
“You can't become a cartoon cat when you grow up,” Mom always says. She really does not understand anything at all.
“I'm leaving!” I yell to Mom as I head for the front door. On my way I see my stuffed Rainbow Sparkle sitting underneath the coffee table, and I cram her into my lunch box even though one of Mrs. Spangle's rules is “No toys in school.” I am going to need Rainbow Sparkle
to protect me from these pants. Because Rainbow Sparkle is the only white-colored thing in the whole universe that is not awful.
Mrs. Spangle looks like a porcupine, but she is nicer. Porcupines stick people with their quills and Mrs. Spangle has red hair that looks like quills, but she does not stick people with it. I know this because I touched Mrs. Spangle's hair once and it did not stick me. It did feel a little bit prickly at the top, but it was soft when I rubbed my hand over it.
“Please don't pet me, Mandy,” Mrs. Spangle had said, so I have not touched her hair again, even though sometimes I would like to.
I am thinking about petting Mrs. Spangle's hair while she stands at the front of our room and tells us about our big second-grade Presidential Pageant.
“The president's coming?” I call out.
“Mandy,” Mrs. Spangle says with a warning in her voice. Mrs. Spangle has seven big rules for our classroom, and I am pretty good at following three of them. “No calling out” is number four on the list, and that is not one of my favorites.
I cover my mouth with one hand and shoot the other one in the air.
“Yes, Mandy?” Mrs. Spangle calls on me.
“The president's coming?”
“That's a good guess, but no,” Mrs. Spangle answers. I slide down in my chair and slouch, disappointed. “Instead of having one president visit, you're all going to become presidents for the day!”
And I hate to say it after I made the big deal with the slouch and all, but this is just about the best news I've ever heard.
“Wahoo!” I leap up from my chair and pump
my fist in the air. Luckily, three other kids do this too, except without the “wahoo.”
I sit back in my chair and raise my hand as quickly as I can. I place my left hand over my mouth, just to remind myself to keep it closed until Mrs. Spangle calls on me.
“Yes, Mandy?” Mrs. Spangle says, so I snap my left hand away from my mouth.
“Can I be George Washington?” George Washington is clearly the best president because he was first, and I always like to be first. I was born first in my family, so it only seems fair.
“I'll be assigning your parts for the assembly next week,” Mrs. Spangle says. “In the meantime, we're going to get caught up on our presidential knowledge each day, so you'll all get to learn about the presidents who might not be as famous as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.”
I shoot my hand into the air again.
“I would like to be George Washington, please,” I say. I use “please” and everything, because that is one of Mrs. Spangle's rules that I am good at: “Be polite.”
“Everyone will find out next week,” Mrs. Spangle says. “Now let's get our things and line up for lunch. Natalie's table first.” Natalie's table always gets to be first because Natalie sits with her hands folded all the time and she makes her whole table do the same. Natalie is no fun at all, if I forgot to mention.