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by Stefi Sparer
I love kids. I never used to, but something happened between high school and college and now, I think kids are adorable.
Until they start doing that thing where they sneeze into your face. I stop breathing and back away in horror, “You can handle that…” I tell my mother as she expertly maneuvers the small boy, Spencer, with just one hand. He’s wearing a colorful construction paper hat still thick and wet with more glue than glitter and now the paper is bending dangerously close to his brown hair with the extra weight, threatening a shmear of glue. It’s Christmas time again and yesterday it seemed like a good idea to agree to get up early to teach my little cousin’s pre-school class all about Chanukkah on my winter break, but I failed to remember how germy kids are.
I was never like that. I was a clean kid. Maybe too clean. Bad Seed clean. My dress was never soiled, my nails always shined like justice, and I showered every day. Sometimes twice. I was, perhaps, a parent’s dream until it came to cleaning something other than myself. Then you could forget it. I might have been sparkling fresh, but I was a lazy thing too.
“How about we sanitize before we teach the kids?” I ask my mother. She nods in agreement and extends her hands without letting me finish. “I have some Purell in my purse. It’s not a big bottle though, do you think that’s enough for fifteen kids?”
My mother takes her hands back and sighs, “Steph, you can’t sanitize someone else’s child…” Somewhere in the room, a child coughs and I tense up.
“Something needs to be done,” I struggle to breathe.
Jeffery wipes his hand along his nostrils and then grabs a yellow plastic dreidel from out of my hand and I shrivel up like a tree in Chernobyl. My hands are now covered in germs. It is all I can think about. I panic. Also, simultaneously, I have the most incessant urge to touch my eyes, my nose, and my mouth.
It turns out, kids get bored with the dreidel game. Not that I can blame them. Gambling isn’t really much fun until you’re at least seven and three quarters. I was never so into the dreidel game as much as I was into eating the chocolate coins that are used in the game.
My mother and I received children in groups of two or three and in the ten short minutes we had to teach them about Chanukah, we tried to shove as much culture into their brains as possible. It was obvious a lot of them were fed up and just wanted to get to the chocolate part. It was OK for the first three minutes, until the rules started getting involved and then it wasn’t just a fun game where you spin a top anymore.
“I’m done!” one girl, Samantha, announced, holding up a dreidel in her sticky hand.
“Me too!” her friend Jaxson giggled.
My mother shrugged, “OK, we should have girl talk then!” she suggested.
“Oh, yeah!” Jaxson exclaimed while trying to push back the pink headband in her curly blonde hair.
“Who’s your boyfriend?” my mother asked Jaxson.
“Mmmm… Ray!” she said, kicking her feet up in the air. “Is this mine?” she added, gripping the chocolate so hard her knuckles were turning white.
I nodded as we turned our attention to quiet little Samantha who stopped spinning her dreidel long enough to look up at us with her giant blue eyes.
“Who’s your boyfriend?” my mother asked.
She answered without hesitation, “Brandon. He’s really nice.” Then added quietly, “But sometimes, he hits me.”
My mother and I exchanged glances.
I lifted an eyebrow and nudged her, “Foreshadowing.”