Posted by: Alex Borders | September 27, 2010

The Unexpected Rewards of Volunteering

Monday 27th September

By Sonja Seawright

I was a little surprised that Alex still wanted me to volunteer at the Open House this past Saturday, because on Wednesday, I’d somehow asked a press photographer to forgive Alex for getting his name wrong because parasites were devouring her eyeballs (no such thing was happening).  Look, it just slipped out.  What can I say?

But the invitation still stood, so I showed up as requested on Saturday morning for the Open House, at which point I was directed to the kindergarten area to answer questions from prospective parents.  As I stood there awkwardly, I suddenly had a flashback to the first day of school and the Boo Hoo Breakfast where no fewer than three other parents had looked at my nametag and said, “Wait a minute, your name is familiar. Did you write something for the blog?”  Well, yes.  “Did you write about the birthday?  And the first day of camp?”  I nodded.  “Oh, but you’re not that crazy one with the boat in her living room!”  Er… Hey, is that  coffee over there?

It occurred to me that prospective parents might have also read the blog and, perhaps, I was not the best ambassador for WSP after all. Besides which, where was the coffee?  I was about to go looking for it when a little boy, about 12-15 months old, came toddling out of the kindergarten room, crying and calling for his mother, who had gone up to the auditorium a few minutes before to hear the first talk of the Open House.  One of the other volunteer parents was coming out to get him, but I bent down and scooped him up into my arms.  “You haven’t read the blog, have you?” I asked him in a whisper.

He pointed off towards another room and said, “Mama?”  I took that for a no.

As I considered his tear-stained face, I remembered my own girls at this age:  the age of no reason.  I also remembered that old saying: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So I said, “Okay, let’s look and see if she’s over there.”  He immediately relaxed, and we began our search from one kindergarten room to the next.  Every so often, I offered to put him down and engage in play, but this brought back the tears.  He wanted to look for Mama, and as long as we did that, he was quite happy.  So we looked for her in a lot places. We looked for her in the baskets of hand knitted dolls and animals.  We looked for her in the various colors of play silks adorning the rooms.  We looked for her in the cubbies for the rain boots.  We even opened up all the doors to the bathroom stalls in our search.  (I suspect both she and I were happy that we didn’t find her there.)

He settled down quite a bit, seeing how seriously I was taking the search, so when I ran into friends of mine that I haven’t seen for years, he allowed me to talk to them for a few minutes.  They were there for the Open House, considering WSP for their 4 year old.  I noticed my friends looking at the little boy perched on my hip, then back at me, then at the little boy again, and I said, “Oh, no, he’s not mine.  I’m just holding him until his mother gets back.”

“Oh,” they said, smiling at him (he was quite adorable).  “What’s his mother’s name?”

“From what he tells me, I believe her name is Mama.”

“Mama,” he confirmed, looking around my shoulder to see if she’d appeared.

Lo and behold, before too much longer, she did appear, and he contentedly exchanged my arms for hers.  As he rested his head on her shoulder, we kept eye contact for a few moments, and I thought about my morning.  I hadn’t be sure what to expect when I showed up to volunteer, but I’d thought it would have something to do with handing out pamphlets or answering parents’ questions as best I could.  But no. That’s not what I was there for.  I came there to hold that little boy for an hour, and it was one of the best hours of my weekend.



  1. “From what he tells me, I believe her name is Mama.”


    What a lovely moment, pulled out of what I’m sure was a nice (but busy) event. I love taking a step back like that. This boy was very lucky to have run into you, boat lady.

  2. That’s “crazy boat lady” to you.

  3. What a great story:-) He probably had a better tour of the place than the parents…I hope he tells “Mama”.

  4. Thanks, Joe. He definitely got a very thorough tour of the lower kindergarten level. I learned a few new things about it myself!

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