Why are all my PTA experiences the Harper Valley kind?

Today was Schedule-O-Rama in our household.

Three schools, three schedules. My legs are killing me.

And, as you know, you can’t pick up your schedule without passing the PTA table, where you get the whole parent-involvement spiel, yadda yadda yadda. So I’m now a member of three PTAs/PTSAs. Yippee.

I’m just not the joining type. I’m not the meeting type, the taking-notes type, the running-the-school-book fair type. Not to dis those who are. I think it’s great – for them. I just don’t like groups. I guess that’s why I’m a cat person.

So am I a hypocrite for joining the PTA/PTSA? Probably. I’m a big old hypocrite on lots of things. I’ll probably go to hell for it, too. But I think it’s my duty as a parent to join the PTA/PTSA as a visible cue to my kids that I’m all about their schooling. Not that they notice, but they might someday.

And frankly, when I die and someone’s writing my obit, I want them to be able to say I was a longtime PTA member. Because when you read that in someone’s obituary, don’t you just figure they’re Mom of the Year material?

OK, so before you start rolling your eyes and assuming I’m just sitting at home, watching reality TV and eating chocolates while my progeny are preparing to be the leaders of tomorrow, let me just say that I volunteer at school. I do all the crap jobs that no one else wants to do – reshelving library books, going to the food bank to pick up extras for our school program for needy kids, cutting apart laminated essays for the second-grade teacher. It’s not glamorous, but it’s the kind of thing I’d rather do than sit in a meeting and bitch about how last year’s PTA dropped the ball on the cookie-dough fundraiser.

However, I long ago gave up actually being involved in the running of any of these myriad PTAs I belong to. Like I said, groups and I don’t mix. I did, though, try my hand at this officer thing in the early days of my stay-at-home motherhood, with disastrous results.

Without going into much detail – I seriously can’t for legal reasons – I ended up in dog court, defending my pooches and my reputation against scurrilous allegations from none other than a fellow PTA member. The whole incident began in the PTA and spilled over into the neighborhood. And that’s all I can say about that in writing. If you want the whole story, you’ll have to buy me a beer.

Still, it’s been six years since that debacle, and those memories have softened somewhat around the edges. So last year, I eased back into a little PTA involvement, working at the fall book fair, doing whatever needed to be done that no one else wanted to do.

Then came spring and what should have been preparations for our school flower sale. It had been an annual event since 2004. It didn’t start as a PTA affair, but in the last few years the PTA had taken it over. But the spring wore on, and no information on the flower sale floated around.

So about two weeks before the date it should have happened – the Saturday before Mother’s Day – I ran into a former PTA officer at a hardware store. We both were buying annuals. I told her I was stocking up on flowers since it appeared our school wasn’t selling them this year. We agreed it was weird.

Then that night, I was at an end-of-the-year band concert when another friend told me she’d heard the flower sale was canceled because the PTA had never paid the grower for the flowers from the 2010 sale.

Whoa. How much money were we talking about? About $1,200. Not a ginormous amount, but seriously. They’d had the money. What did they do with it?

The word on the street was that the PTA tried and tried to reach the grower, but no one ever answered the phone. So they just kept all the money.

Geez. Every morning of the world, our school principal makes like a deejay on the morning announcements and implores students and staff to, “Do the Right Thing. Treat People Right.” Every. Single. Day.

I was livid. What did they do with the money? Supposedly, there wasn’t enough in the PTA coffers to send the school’s fourth graders to the state capital, but the PTA had apparently embezzled some money. Holy cow!

So I contacted the grower, who said he’d never received the money. I asked him to e-mail me an invoice.

Then I made an appointment with the principal and told him the whole thing, even the part about the PTA officers claiming that the principal had tried calling the grower but that his call had never been returned. Pure fiction, apparently.

The principal told me to get him the invoice and he’d personally drive it the 45 minutes to the country greenhouse. So I did. And he did. Somehow, the PTA coughed up the money.

And now, I’m a non-entity to the PTA again. By the end of May, the officers looked right through me. Stopped talking when I came anywhere near.

It kind of hurt. I mean, no one likes to be ostracized. But was I surprised? Not especially.

So, yeah. I’m a PTA member. Big whoop.