birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

The Reluctant Chaperone

I never wanted to be a chaperone. I would leave that to other parents, the ones who were uber helicopters with the perverse desire to control every aspect of their children’s lives. However I was roped into this role one weekend when my 15 year old son and two friends wanted to go to a Junior State of America event at a hotel not far from my home. Normally the chaperones at these events for budding politicos are high school history teachers. My son assured me that even though his teacher Mr. Fetherston declined to go at the last minute, he would be fine as there were many adults in the hotel to supervise. I dropped him off that Saturday and returned home to my husband, hacking away sick with the flu. Around three that afternoon, the phone rang. “Mom, you need to be our chaperone. Come quick because there’s a meeting in half an hour.” I agreed since it would be nice to sleep in a quiet hotel room away from my coughing spouse. I raced to the Marriott for the meeting with history and government teachers from all over Southern California. I was the only chaperone not certified to teach. I admired the passion of these devoted teachers for taking the time out of their personal lives for their students. Then I listened to the rules of the evening, which included bed checks and a lights out time. I sighed. I didn’t want to stay up until midnight. What could happen? My son was a good kid. I hadn’t checked into my room yet. When I went to the front desk, I learned my roommate would be Mr. Klein, a history teacher from Van Nuys! I threw a fit. I would not sleep with a strange man, even in a separate bed! I made my son’s JSA chapter cough up the extra change for my accommodations. I thought the evening was without incident. I never did a bed check or a lights out order. The next day I learned from my son that one of the boys in his small group left the hotel and was lost in a mall across the street for an hour. Ignorance is bliss. From that time on, I became the official Westlake High School JSA chaperone. My son was passionate about this organization. He became lieutenant governor of California but soured on politics as a career option after spending the summer in Washington, DC. Twice a year, I chaperoned meetings in Long Beach or Pasadena. I was a bad chaperone. I never checked on anyone as I realized if I asked the students to do anything, I was ignored. I went to my room at nine, snoozed through the required meetings and left the hotel during the day. The only reason I did this was to support my child, trying to be a good mom. Hopefully I will never have to be a chaperone again.

Without Running Water

New York City