Discover more from Rereading My Childhood by Amy A. Cowan
The Baby-Sitters Club #24: Kristy and the Mother's Day Surprise by Ann M. Martin
In elementary school, every May we would make some silly gift for Mother’s Day. Usually, they were of the construction paper flower variety. I only vividly remember one. It was a small drinking glass with some crepe paper and glue on it, creating a sort of stained glass cup for shots, I’m assuming. Perfect for the Mom who’s a day drinker.
I imagine many mothers fawned over these trinkets of affection. Not my mother, however. It was greeted with a polite “Thank you” followed by, “What do I do with this?” It’s not that my mother doesn’t like gifts — it’s quite the opposite. Honestly, my mother gives out too many gifts and likes to receive too many things. The issue is that my mother believes in useful gifts. If it’s a piece of art, it should do something else, like tell time or provide warmth. The cup was at least useful — it held liquids. It even held liquids that weren’t potent potables. The paper flowers were pure decoration, and they never lasted long in the house.
Mother’s Day gifts are on the brains of the BSC, especially Kristy, who is anticipating the arrival of a new brother or sister to the Watson/Thomas household. So, I hope you’ve wished your mother a Happy Mother’s Day, and let’s follow the BSC as they take the burden of children from the mothers of Stoneybrook, and the fathers are forced to do the bare minimum — care for their spawn.
It’s Dues-day at the BSC! And speaking of money, the BSC is wondering what they should get their mothers for the impending holiday. Mary Anne reveals that it’s a difficult holiday for her, and Kristy remembers times in school when they made cards for their mothers and Mary Anne would sink into her chair. I’d like to think that schools have accommodated children with single parents or same-sex parents now, but there are still parents who don’t want their children to learn about racism, so I don’t have much hope. I bet those parents wouldn’t care about Mary Anne’s family situation. “A family that is different from mine? How dare they exist without shame! I’m ridiculous!”
Later, Kristy has dinner with the whole Thomas/Watson clan — Charlie, Sam, David Michael, Watson, and Mrs. Thomas, as well as Karen and Andrew. It’s chaotic, but Watson and Mrs. Thomas want to have a discussion. (Also, Mrs. Thomas’s name changes to “Elizabeth.” She was named “Edie” in the first book.) They ask for their children’s opinions on adding a baby to the family. The older kids, especially Kristy, are excited for them. The younger ones, especially Andrew, don’t like the idea. Kristy is convinced her mother is pregnant.
During the next BSC meeting, we get a round of “What’s Claudia Wearing?”
She was wearing a pretty tame dress, too — with a red necktie! Then, she had on these new, very cool roll socks. When she pushed them down just right, they fell into three rolls. The top roll was red, the middle one was peacock blue, and the bottom one was purple. She looked as if she were wearing ice-cream cones on her feet. In her hair was a braided band in red, blue, and purple, like her socks. And dangling from her ear were — get this — spiders in webs. Ew. (But they were pretty cool.)
Claudia is bi. This is canon and it’s great. Or she’s a MordeTwi, which would be terrible.
It’s during this meeting when Kristy announces her idea — she wants the BSC to take some of the neighborhood kids for a day. Do the parents pay them to take the gremlins? No, the BSC will be paying for the experience with their treasury money. It’s a Mother’s Day gift for their best clients. The giving away of free services creates Karens who think they’re entitled to free shit, but that’s a rant for another day. The thing that really pisses me off is that the fathers are called in to take care of the babies as if taking care of their own children is a special treat for the mothers. It was their disgusting trouser pencil that created the children, why do terrible dudes think they shouldn’t take care of their ugly kids? If you see a dude who thinks it’s the woman’s job to take care of the children, would you kindly kick them square in the junk for me? Just so we can ensure that they don’t have any children that they won’t take care of?
Anyway, Claudia is baby-sitting for Jamie and Lucy Newton. Jamie is sad because he can’t go to Sudsy’s Carnival, which is coming to Stoneybrook on Mother’s Day weekend. Claudia gets the great idea to take the kids to the parking lot carnival. The idea is expanded on when the club decides to take the kids to the carnival in the morning, go to the adjacent park for lunch, and then return to the Kishi residence for a wind-down.
Now, it’s time for everyone’s favorite part — logistics!
The BSC lists out the kids whom they want to invite. It comes to twenty-nine kids. They’re going to need help. Unfortunately, Logan and Shannon are both busy that weekend. But Stacey is available for a weekend getaway!
In the end, twenty-one kids partake in the carnival day. With Stacey, each sitter is responsible for only three kids, so that’s completely manageable. Since we’re still in the logistics phase, the girls parse out the kids to their respective sitters. Some interesting combinations include Charlotte and Becca with Stacey because that’s the only pairing that makes sense. Matt and Haley Braddock have to stay together and they are assigned to Jessi, so they can sign to each other. Also, Jenny Prezzioso is with Margot and Claire Pike, and Mary Anne. The girls don’t know how Jenny will interact with Margot and Claire, and Mary Anne is the only one willing to deal with the little princess. Finally, Karen and Andrew are with Kristy, but the BSC has no place to put Shea Rodowsky, Jackie Radowsky’s older brother, so he’s with them. He’s one of the oldest kids going and it might be weird to have him with two kids who are so young, but that’s for future Kristy to worry about.
At the next BSC meeting, the other girls show up at exactly 5:25 (because we needed to know the exact times), and Stacey is there! She finally gets to meet Jessi, who lives in Stacey’s old house. The girls gush over Stacey’s new haircut, to which Stacey says, “I went to this really punk place and told the guy not to make it too punk.” If I meet Ann M. Martin, I’m going to ask what, exactly, is punk in the BSC universe? When they say punk in the context of the early-’90s, I think of The Misfits and Rancid.
The adjective “punk” is also used in Super Special #2: Baby-sitters’ Summer Vacation and #21: Mallory and the Trouble with Twins in reference to mildly gelled hair cuts. I have no idea what “punk” is in this universe and my knowledge starts with the Sex Pistols and ends with the Warped Tour.
Anyway, since it’s the big day, Stacey and Claudia are dressed up.
Stacey, however, put on a tight-fitting pink jumpsuit over a white T-shirt, lacy white socks, and those plastic shoes. What are they called — jellies? And Claudia wore a pale blue baggy shirt over black-and-blue leopard-spotted pants that tied in neat knots at her ankles. On her feet she wore purple high-tops. And they both wore all this jewelry and these accessories, like big, big earrings, and headbands with rosettes on them, and nail polish. Claudia even wore her snake bracelet. Honestly, what did they think we were going to do? Enter a fashion show?
Yes. A fashion show.
Stacey surprises Charlotte and Charlotte leaps into Stacey’s arms. It’s adorable. Unfortunately, there are some criers, but they calm down soon after. One of the criers is Andrew, and Shea Rodowsky takes a protective role over the young boy. At the same time, Karen develops a little crush on Shea. So Kristy’s group works out, despite the age difference.
Even though the carnival is in a parking lot, it’s a little overwhelming for the kids.
There was a ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, a whip ride, a train, a funhouse, and a spookhouse. At the midway were a penny pitch, a ring toss, a horserace game, a shooting gallery, and a fish pond for the littlest kids. The sideshow tent was set up at one end of the parking lot, and wandering among the crowds were a man selling oranges with candy straws in them, an organ-grinder with a monkey and — Jamie’s precious clown selling balloons.
One of the first things Karen wants to go on is the spookhouse. I’ve been to a carnival spook house. I know spook houses.
And then Karen wants to get off — she’s too scared. An attendant gets them out. Geez, Karen, you chose to go on this ride. She wanted to go on Disney’s The Haunted Mansion and got spooked on that one, too. At some point, she has to admit she doesn’t like these rides and stops going on them. It only took me one time to figure out that I don’t like rollercoasters.
Meanwhile, Margo goes on a ride and throws up. She’s not good with motion. Same, girl, same. But I know how to recover quickly. Margo hasn’t figured out the formula yet, because she is affected during the whole day. Kristy tells her to eat slowly. So she does. Like, a bite every ten seconds slow. The food is wet mush by the time she finishes a bite. That would make me hurl more, but I guess it works for Margo because she’s not sick at the Kishi residence.
And speaking of the Kishi residence, the kids sing “The Ants Go Marching,” a song I know, and some song that goes, “I’ve got sixpence, jolly, jolly sixpence. I’ve got sixpence to last me all my life,” a song I don’t know. The only sixpence I’m familiar with is none the richer.
The kids also make Mother’s Day cards. Shea makes an acrostic for his mother.
Renowned for mothering, apparently.
The day ends and the children are collected. Later, the BSC talks about presents for each of their respective mothers. Mary Anne has an idea — she’s going to give her father a present since he’s been such a great father and mother. I would not call him a great either, but I’m not Mary Anne. I think she should just ignore the dumb holiday and be done with it and use this opportunity to make a teacher feel bad if they say something ignorant about mothers or the lack thereof. Of course, I was, and still am, a troll.
When Kristy gets home, her mother and Watson have a special announcement.
“Hey, Mom, are you pregnant?” asked Sam for the four-thousandth time.
“No,” she replied, “but we’ve adopted a child.”
Adopted a child! Well, that was a different story!
“You’ve what?” cried Charlie.
“We’ve adopted a little girl,” said Watson. “She’s two years old, she’s Vietnamese, and her name will be Emily Michelle Thomas Brewer.”
And she’s arriving at the household the next day, which just happens to be Mother’s Day.
Adoption is a long process, and I’d like to think that Watson and Mrs. Thomas have been planning on adoption for a long time. However, it seems like they have been going through the process since just the beginning of the book. So, about two weeks. But whatever, they’re happy. Kristy is happy. Sam and Charlie and cool with it. Who cares what the younger ones think, they’re getting a nanny.
The BSC throws a welcoming party for the child, because every occasion needs a party, apparently. Emily Michelle is fast asleep when Watson and Mrs. Thomas bring her home, so the party is exceedingly unnecessary. The book ends with Kristy declaring that her new little sister is the best Mother’s Day gift. Because humans can be exchanged like gifts? I guess? What are they saying here?
I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a traditional Mother’s Day gift. I gave my mother the handmade crafts we made in class, sure. But now that I’m an adult, I’m expected to give her something more substantial. Maybe flowers — the traditional gift. However, my mother would rather have the seeds than the flowers. Maybe I should give her a nice brunch at a fancy place with bottomless mimosas. No. That wouldn’t work either. She just wants Boston Market. My mother is strange, but I know what she likes — Boston Market and gift cards to Lowe’s.
And I don’t think the traditional Mother’s Day gifts work for every Mother out there, nor should they. Every Mother is an individual. The best gifts are ones tailored for the Mother, not some corporate vision of what Mom wants based on products with the most margin.
Also, frankly, there are mothers out there who don’t deserve any presents. Especially ones who adopt children and then want to rehome them when the smallest problem arises — or they can’t post pictures of their child on social media and those YouTube adoption views have dried up. I made a joke earlier about Emily Michelle being a gift — a gift to be exchanged. I was being sarcastic there, but I’m not being sarcastic about the epidemic of rehoming children, though. It’s barbaric and the practice has real victims and real consequences. I’m all about bringing the mood down in the conclusion. So Happy Mother’s Day!