Armed with 200 mini croissants, my faux Balenciaga handbag (Target; people don't believe me), Minks the grumpy teenager and newly smoothed locks, I backed the sturdy yet battle-scarred green Prius up the driveway at seven thirty this morning, at about 4o miles per hour. The canyon is grey. Birds are singing. The tomatoes are turning into Jack's beanstalk. We've lived here for eleven years so the driveway, on a 45 degree slope is something I take on with my eyes half-closed, one arm behind the passenger chair, pedal to the metal, like something out of the Italian Job. My friends are intimidated by the hill, the turn at the top, the wall on one side, but not me, oh no sirree bob, me and the mini croissants are on a mission and today is the final day but one of eighth grade, and all the surly teenagers are off to a jolly day at Magic Mountain amusement park, where the rides are the scariest in Southern California.
"Don't talk about finals, speak to my teachers, or ask any of the kids their names" daughter instructs me. "Don't say anything too English or mention England or talk in that English voice you use with Granny" she continues. "And don't mention Science to Mr Edelen." I suck in my mouth like the proverbial wide-mouthed frog on arrival at school, struggle with my boxes and march towards the festive breakfast area. "Oh, and don't use any French words, just because you've got the croissants. Remember they're cru-sahnts in American. Oh, I'll carry them" she says, suddenly feeling bad for her apparently socially-challenged mother. "So do you want to tell me what I can do?" I ask as we cross the courtyard. This is a legitimite question. To which she does not reply.
I am glad I spent the day in bed yesterday, nursing my swine flu (or at least that's what I told everyone). Maharishi was a complete love and found the croissants at Smart & Final, thanks to Suzy's excellent advice (except I feel sure that had it been her responsibility, she would have made them).
R, Emma's mom, who's lovely, with black curly hair and excellent short red nails greets me conspiratorially. "So" she says, darting her eyes from side to side, making sure no-one is listening, "that party they went to on Friday night -- quite the do, I hear." I'd heard the same. Indian henna tattoos, bracelets, painted skateboards, nail art (mine got the pink leopard, just to put a firm capital K in Klassy), a hamburger truck outside, etc. ( This is Beverly Hills. It's all a bit Ritzy)."You know that J has a crush on a friend of Emma's. Don't say I told you." Well, as I'm not allowed to say anything, I won't. Promise. Cross my heart. "He's a-DOR-able."
Another one of the helper moms gives me a hug, "Hi babe!" American moms are lovely. I won't ever be a mom, I just can't pronounce that word the right way, but these moms are excellent. "Thank you so much for the croissants." She's laying out 200 bagels, pots of cream cheese in two flavors, bushels of cut fruit, lemon-poppyseed cupcakes, cranberry oatmeal scones and two enormous trays of graduation cookies (iced to look like a graduate's diploma). Jugs of orange juice and enormous canisters of coffee fill another table. Parents and teachers smile politely at each other. The mother who hates me promptly ignores me. Again. Fathers wink. Teenage children stand around looking uncomfortable or giggle in small groups. The Oscar-winner dad looks very distinguished, very SB, smiles at everyone. My English friend Suzie arrives. Thank goodness.
"You'll have to take some of these home," a kindly mother says. "There's too much food." Wisely the children aren't eating as much as we expected. Rollercoasters and bellyfuls of pastries don't really go well together. "Mais oui" I say, "I am 'aving une petite soiree this evening in 'oneur of Les Obamas in Pareeeee." Minks GLARES at me. "No French" she hisses.