Report from the playground:
The news came from other mothers, from nannies, even from other kids, but not from my 5-year-old, Anna, who seemed, at first, oblivious.
It was big news. Michael had a girlfriend. Anna had a boyfriend. Here it was: Michael and Anna, the first kindergarten couple.
I should have seen the signs. In her backpack each day I would find drawings of green and orange and blue superheroes, some with apparent supersonic goo shooting from their eyeballs. "To Anna from Michael," the pictures would say. Then one day Anna got her first-ever timeout from a teacher. The offense: "Bopping Michael on the head."
Love was in the air. I got the full story from Michael's mother.
"I can't sit next to you anymore," Michael had said to Elaine, the nanny who had devoted her previous five years to his care. "I can only sit next to Anna." It was a major topic of dinnertime conversation in Michael's house. After weeks of hearing about Anna's every move in school, his mother finally said: "What is it about her? Is she really nice to you?"
"Oh, she's nice to me," he said. "But she's so beautiful."
He announced that she was his girlfriend, and that was that. "They're really good together," said one of their classmates to me one morning by the lockers. Other kids reported on Michael's acts of heroism. When Stevie accidentally knocked over Anna on the playground, Michael ran to her. She was hurt. She was crying. Michael soothed her. "I just petted her and petted her until she felt better," Michael proudly told his mother.
I asked Anna about the incident, and she confirmed the details, adding, "He's a great man."
As the weeks went on, I found myself pushing for news, hoping for bits of intrigue like you do when you read People magazine. "So, did anything happen with Michael today?" I would say on the ride home from school.
"No, but Zoe had a hole in her tights," she said once. Much of her news has been of this ilk, and so I've come to depend on Michael's mother and others to keep me apprised.
Inevitably, the crisis occurred: Tritan. He had been Michael's best friend for two entire years. And now Michael was too busy for him. Too busy with a girl, of all preposterous things. For a while Tritan merely stepped aside, occasionally looking glum. Then he made his move. Michael was handing out invitations to his Halloween party. When he turned to give one to Victoria, Tritan dashed forth. "You can't do that!" he said. "Because she's mine!" Victoria was reportedly surprised by the news, but not disappointed. And so Michael found in himself a streak of valor. He did not give the invitation to Victoria but rather handed it to Tritan to give to her. "I had to," he later explained. "Because he is my friend."
So this, so far, is it: Michael and Anna. Tritan and Victoria. The two happy couples of kindergarten. You can tell that Tritan and Victoria are still in the honeymoon stage, with Victoria only recently getting in trouble for yanking Tritan around by the neck. Michael and Anna have moved on to spats. She got mad at him yesterday; she said he stepped on her foot and would not apologize. He continued to refuse to apologize, despite his mother's insistence in the parking lot after school. "I didn't do anything," he said. "And she tried to kiss me."
Anna vehemently denies the charges.
It's hard to know where this relationship will go. Last night I overheard Anna talking on the phone to the cousin she hasn't seen since summer. "I have a boyfriend," she announced casually. "His name is Michael. He has black hair, and his pencil box broke."
Tritan and Victoria have already consulted each other on the costumes they plan to wear to Michael's Halloween party. He's going to be "an amazing superhero," and she's going to be "a beautiful Barbie bride."
Anna wants to be a duck.
Michael's mother has expressed her concern. "A duck? Are you sure she doesn't want to be Cinderella or something?" She says Michael is having trouble holding in his heart the truth that Anna is actually going to attend this party. His princess is really coming to his house?
Yes, and she's going to be a duck.
He's going to be Spider-Man. I have expressed my concern. Anna has been afraid of Spider-Man since she was 2. It is practically a phobia. Last summer she noticed a picture of Spider-Man on our Rice Krispies box, and she took the box outside and threw it in the compost pile.
I'm looking forward to going to Michael's Halloween party. An amazing superhero and a beautiful Barbie bride. You can see potential there. But a monster of a Spider-Man and an oblivious duck? I just don't know.