Dawns book, p.7
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       Dawn's Book, p.7
 

          
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  I asked Mr. Lazar a few questions that we always ask new clients and told him I would call back in a few minutes to tell him if we could take the job.

  When I hung up I told the others about the new client and that Dr. Johanssen had recommended us.

  “Dr. Johanssen would never give our name out to someone she didn’t approve of,” Kristy said, “so I guess it’s all right to take them on as clients. Who’s free to sit Saturday night?”

  Mary Anne checked the record book. “Dawn’s the only one who doesn’t have a job.”

  I thought quickly. Saturday night. I was pretty sure Mom would go out with Mr. Spier, but I wouldn’t have to stay with Jeff because he was going to sleep over at the Pikes’. “I’ll do it,” I said.

  We agreed that I would sit for the new clients.

  I called Mr. Lazar back and got the details for the job. Before I left the meeting Stacey gave me money from the treasury to buy new Magic Markers for my Kid-Kit.

  I felt great as I walked home. The Baby-sitters Club had trusted me with a new client.

  My job at the Lazars’ began at six o’clock. Since it was my first job at their house I made sure to arrive a few minutes early.

  Mrs. Lazar answered the door. She was dressed for an evening out. A bright-eyed little girl in jeans and a T-shirt was half-hiding behind her mother’s skirt.

  “Hi,” I said. “I’m Dawn Schafer from the Baby-sitters Club.” I smiled at the girl and asked, “Are you Sandra?”

  The girl nodded and moved out from behind her mother.

  “I’m glad you came a little early, Dawn,” Mrs. Lazar said. “Since it’s the first time you’ve been here there’s a lot to tell you. Come on in and we’ll get started.”

  I followed Mrs. Lazar through the living room, down a hall, and into the kitchen. Sandra, who was walking beside me, pointed to my Kid-Kit and asked, “What’s in there?”

  “This is my Kid-Kit,” I explained. “It’s filled with games and other things for us to do.”

  “What a wonderful idea,” Mrs. Lazar said.

  “Can we play with it now?” Sandra asked.

  “First I have to talk to Dawn,” Mrs. Lazar said. “After dinner and a half hour of homework, you can play with the toys that Dawn brought.”

  Sandra frowned and complained, “That’s a long time to wait.”

  “Maybe Sandra could see what’s in the Kid-Kit now while we talk,” I said.

  “That’s a good idea,” Mrs. Lazar agreed.

  I put the Kid-Kit on the table and Sandra looked through it while her mother told me what to prepare for supper, where the emergency numbers were listed, and how to reach her and her husband in an emergency. “Sandra will show you what she has for homework,” Mrs. Lazar explained. “Give her as much help as she needs with it. Bedtime is at nine o’clock on weekend nights and we always have a bedtime story.”

  “There’re books in the Kid-Kit,” Sandra said. “Can Dawn read me one of those?”

  Mrs. Lazar said yes to her daughter and smiled at me. “I have a feeling you and Sandra will do just fine together,” she said. “Now let’s go into the living room so I can show you where to write down messages.”

  Sandra closed up the Kid-Kit and we followed her mother into the living room. Mrs. Lazar showed me a pad on the desk where I should write down phone messages. “In the past sitters haven’t been very good at writing down messages,” she said. “It’s led to some mix-ups that I would rather have avoided.”

  I assured her that I would take careful messages.

  A few minutes later the Lazars left for the evening and I was alone with Sandra.

  First we made dinner together. Sandra tore up the lettuce for the salad while I cooked noodles. Then Sandra decided to pretend we were on a television cooking show. While I made the cheese sauce and added it to our noodles she explained what I was doing for the make-believe television cameras. She called her cooking show The Easy TV Cooking Show. It was great fun and I was impressed that Sandra was so clever.

  During dinner Sandra asked, “Can we play with the Kid-Kit after supper?”

  I smiled at her and asked, “What do you think?”

  “I think I have to do a half hour of homework first,” she said with a frown.

  “We’ll make your homework fun to do,” I told her. “You’ll see.”

  We sat on the living room rug in front of the coffee table. Sandra opened up her reading workbook and put it on the table. “I have to read a story and answer questions,” she said glumly.

  “Why don’t you read the story out loud,” I said.

  “Will you help me with words I don’t know?”

  “Of course I will.”

  Sandra flashed me a dimpled smile. “Thanks,” she said. Even though she smiled I could sense that she was getting nervous about reading out loud. When she started to read the story I understood why. Most kids her age could easily read a simple story such as the one we were working on. But Sandra couldn’t. For example, she read “sing” for “swing” and “saw” for “was.”

  The phone rang. “You read over what we’ve read so far while I get the phone,” I told Sandra.

  I went to the desk and picked up the receiver. “Lazar residence,” I said.

  “Hello,” a woman’s voice at the other end said, “is Janice there?”

  I sat down at the desk and placed the message pad and pencil in front of me.

  “Mrs. Lazar isn’t in this evening,” I said. “Would you like to leave a message?”

  “Yes. Tell her that Mrs. Saunders called about — ” There was a pause on the phone line. “I have another call,” she said. “Please hold on.”

  While I waited I wrote down Mrs. Saunders’ name and the time she called. As I sat there waiting for her to come back on the line I idly flipped through the papers in front of me. There were bills, checking statements, and letters. I noticed that one of the letters was from Stoneybrook Elementary. I saw that it was about Sandra. I read it.

  Dear Mr. and Mrs. Lazar,

  I have met with the learning specialist, Dr. Jackson, who, with your permission, recently tested Sandra. I’ve also reviewed Sandra’s work in Ms. Cahill’s classroom. We strongly recommend that Sandra repeat second grade. We are confident that with extra help at both school and home Sandra will make significant progress in her reading and math skills during the next school year.

  Please call me at your earliest convenience to set up a meeting with the reading specialist and Ms. Cahill.

  Sincerely,

  Dana Livingston

  Principal

  Repeat second grade? Poor Sandra, I thought. It must be awful to have to repeat a grade. I knew I’d have hated to have to stay behind while my friends went on to the next grade.

  Mrs. Saunders’ voice on the phone interrupted my thoughts. “Sorry that took so long,” she said.

  “That’s okay.”

  “Tell Janice that the Audubon Society executive meeting for tomorrow night has been canceled. Jack has been called out of town on a family emergency. I’ll call Janice as soon as the meeting’s been rescheduled. Do you have all that?”

  I repeated what she’d told me to be sure I had it right. After I hung up the phone I finished writing the message down. Mrs. Saunders called to say Audubon meeting tomorrow night canceled. Jack had family emergency. Mrs. S. will call back when rescheduled.

  “Dawn, there’re a bunch of words here I can’t read,” Sandra said.

  “Okay,” I said. “I’ll be right there.”

  I left the message by the phone. I also made sure that the letter I’d read from Stoneybrook Elementary School was where it was when I’d first sat down. I didn’t want the Lazars to know I’d been reading their mail.

  I sat next to Sandra on the rug. “Let’s start the story from the beginning,” I said. “I’ll read and you follow with your finger. Then it will be your turn. Okay?”

  I was very patient with Sandra and we finished her homework.

  “
I don’t read good,” Sandra said.

  “You will someday,” I assured her. “It just takes lots of time and practice.”

  Poor Sandra, I thought. She must see that her friends have already learned how to read. That must make her feel frustrated. I was determined to make her feel special.

  When I was tucking her into bed I told her, “I had fun baby-sitting for you. Your idea of pretending we were on TV when we were cooking was just great. I’m going to do that with other kids I sit for. And I’ll tell them it was your idea.”

  “You’re the best baby-sitter I ever had,” Sandra said.

  “Thanks.”

  When I went downstairs again I checked to see that the kitchen was cleaned up. Then I did a quick once-over of the living room. I packed up the Kid-Kit and straightened out the couch cushions. I double-checked that the phone message I’d written down was easy to read and free of spelling errors. I thought of reading the letter about Sandra, but didn’t.

  I knew I’d broken the “never snoop” rule of baby-sitting and my conscience had started to bother me. Well, I rationalized to myself, if I’m sitting for Sandra I should know that she has to repeat second grade. It’s a special problem, like divorced parents. Look how knowing that the Barrett kids’ parents are divorced helps me to help them. I’ll be an even better sitter for Sandra because I know she’s going to repeat second grade. Then I remembered that Mrs. Barrett had told me about the divorce and that I had learned about Sandra by snooping. My noisy conscience started nagging at me again.

  A few minutes later the Lazars returned. When Mrs. Lazar asked me how the evening had gone I told her everything that we’d done and that a message from Mrs. Saunders was on the desk.

  “I’m very impressed with you and your club,” she said. “We’ll call on you again soon.”

  She paid me and I left.

  Seeing Mrs. Lazar face-to-face made me feel creepy and more guilty than ever. I’d read the private letter about Sandra. As I put on my coat I told my conscience, “No one knows I did it and I won’t tell anyone. I got away with it. So what’s the big deal?”

  A week later school let out for the year. Before our first BSC meeting of summer vacation we had a party in Claudia’s room. We were all gabbing, laughing, and feeling great. Even Kristy was in a loose and slightly wild mood. But the second the clock turned to fivethirty she became no-nonsense Kristy again. The rest of us did the best we could to calm down, too.

  Ring.

  I picked up the phone. “Hello, Baby-sitters Club.”

  It was Mrs. Lazar asking for a sitter for the following afternoon. “I hope you’re free to sit, Dawn,” she said. “Sandra’s especially requesting you.”

  “I liked sitting for her,” I told Mrs. Lazar. “But I know that Sandra will like the other sitters in the club, too. We’ll check the schedule and call you right back to tell you which sitter will be taking the job.” I secretly hoped it would be me.

  As it turned out Claudia and I were both free to sit the next afternoon. But since the Lazars were new clients and they’d asked for me, we decided that I should take the job.

  The next day after lunch I walked to the Lazars’.

  Sandra opened the door. “Hi, Dawn,” she said. “Did you tell the other kids about the television cooking show?”

  “Sure I did,” I answered. “It was a huge success with these three kids I sit for. Their names are Buddy, Suzi, and Marnie Barnett. We made microwave pizza. Buddy really hammed it up for the make-believe cameras.”

  “Did you tell them it was my idea?” Sandra asked.

  “Absolutely.”

  We went into the kitchen where Mrs. Lazar was clearing up after lunch. “I’ll be at the Audubon Society office,” she said. “I left the number next to the phone on my desk.”

  “Can we cook something?” Sandra asked. “We like to pretend we’re on television.”

  “You already had lunch,” Mrs. Lazar answered as she finished her cleanup. “I was hoping you’d play out of doors. It’s such a beautiful day.”

  “Maybe we could pretend cook,” I told Sandra, “since we’re on pretend television. We could do it in the yard. And we could make a sign with the name of the show. You could do drawings on it. I have a new set of Magic Markers in my Kid-Kit.”

  “Dawn, you have the best ideas,” Sandra said.

  “She certainly does,” Mrs. Lazar said. She gave her daughter a hug. “But first, Miss Television Cook, a half hour of reading. Okay?”

  “Oh, all right,” Sandra said. “But can it be a book from the Kid-Kit?”

  “That’d be fine. You and Dawn can take turns reading.” She looked at me to be sure I understood that Sandra should do some of the reading herself. I smiled and nodded.

  After Mrs. Lazar left, Sandra and I headed for the backyard with my Kid-Kit and the kitchen timer. The timer was Sandra’s idea. She wanted to be sure that she didn’t spend one second more than thirty minutes reading. We settled ourselves at the picnic table and I took out an easy-to-read book from the Kid-Kit. Sandra set the timer for thirty minutes.

  When she saw the book I’d put in front of us on the table she said, “That’s a Madeline book. I know that story. I read it already.”

  “Me, too,” I said. “Madeline books were my favorites. And I still like to read them.” I smiled at Sandra. “Sometimes it’s easier to read a book when you know the story already.”

  “Okay,” she said. “You start.”

  “I’ll point to the words as I read,” I said, “and you follow along.”

  After a few pages I said, “Now it’s your turn.”

  Poor Sandra. She struggled with every word. I coaxed her and made encouraging comments, but she was miserable and kept asking how many minutes were left. I would have turned the reading session into a math session about how to read a timer, but I’d promised Sandra’s mother that we’d read. So we stuck with the book.

  “Even a dummy could read this book,” Sandra said sadly. “I can’t even read a word with three letters.” She slammed the book shut. “I’m the dumbest kid in my class. I’ll never learn to read.”

  I put my arm around her shoulder. “Don’t get discouraged, Sandra. It has nothing to do with smart or dumb. It’s a special problem. You’ll work on your reading all summer. And doing second grade over is going to be a big help, too.”

  The instant the words were out of my mouth I knew I’d made a mistake. The look on Sandra’s face told me that she didn’t know she would be repeating second grade. “I’m going to be in the third grade,” she said hesitantly. “I was already in second grade.”

  “Right,” I said. “I remember now.”

  The timer went off.

  “So we’re finished with reading,” I said cheerfully. “It’s time for television cooking. What should we do first? Cook? Make the sign? Or make up a theme song for the show?”

  “What’s a theme song?” Sandra asked in a quiet voice.

  “It’s the song they play at the beginning and end of a television show,” I said. “For example, Sesame Street has a theme song.” I started singing the Sesame Street theme song and pretending I was singing it for a big audience. Soon Sandra joined in.

  Then we made up lyrics for The Easy TV Cooking Show. We sang it with gestures to illustrate the words. Sandra was having fun. I hoped with all my heart that she had forgotten what I said about her repeating second grade.

  Sandra was drawing pictures on The Easy TV Cooking Show sign when I saw that Mrs. Lazar was home. “Your mom’s here,” I said. “Let’s sing the theme song for her.”

  Sandra jumped up from the table and ran across the yard to her mother calling, “Mommy, Mommy, Dawn said I have to go to second grade again.”

  My heart sank. I’d been found out. And I’d upset Sandra.

  Mrs. Lazar squatted down to her daughter’s height and said quietly, “Go up to your room, honey, and I’ll be right there to talk to you. Okay?”

  Sandra ran inside without looking back at
me. I met Mrs. Lazar halfway across the yard. I didn’t know what to say so I didn’t say anything.

  “I assume you found the letter from the school,” she said gravely.

  I nodded.

  “We weren’t planning on telling Sandra that she’s repeating second grade until a few days before school starts in the fall.” She spoke quietly, but I could hear the anger in her voice. “Sandra is a real worrier and there’s a lot for her to worry about in this situation. She’ll be separated from her friends and she’ll be working with a special tutor. She’s not going to understand that repeating second grade is good for her until she’s experienced it. Now she has all summer to think about it and worry.”

  “I’m sorry,” I said.

  “I’m sure you are,” Mrs. Lazar said. “But that won’t make it any easier for Sandra, will it?”

  “No.”

  I was feeling so ashamed and upset that I don’t even remember being paid or leaving or anything else except that I probably said “I’m sorry” about a dozen times.

  I didn’t tell a soul what I’d done to Sandra. The only good thing about it was that I’d learned a lesson about snooping and people’s right to their privacy. It was a lesson I’d never forget and I knew that I’d never do anything like that again. I only wish that I hadn’t made life even harder for a little girl who was already having a difficult time.

  Besides being ashamed I was afraid that Mrs. Lazar would call the BSC and complain about me and I’d be kicked out of the club. Every time the phone rang during the next few meetings I felt my heartbeat jump. But Mrs. Lazar never called the BSC again, either to complain or to hire a sitter. We had a lot of new clients that summer and no one seemed to notice that we’d lost one. No one but me.

  I finished my autobiography at ten o’clock on Thursday night. It was due on Friday. The last thing I did was make the cover. I drew an outline of the map of the United States (without Hawaii and Alaska) in black Magic Marker on light blue paper. In the middle of the country, from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River, I printed my title: The Life and Times of Dawn Read Schafer: Bicoastal Girl. Next I pasted a snapshot on the west side of the country. It was of me at the beach with Jeff and Dad. Then on the east side of the country I placed a snapshot of me standing on a snowbank next to Jeff and my mom.

 
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