On the phone with Erica tonight, I felt like such a crappy father; she was telling me about the schedule that her class is on, the schedule that lists who in the class is Top Dog. Now, Top Dog is the student every day that is the one who gets to be at the head of the class line, leading their classmates to and from all the breaks in the day.
Top Dog also gets to sit in a nice chair instead of sitting with the group on the carpet during class meetings. Top Dog gets to get up before everyone else to put toys away, get their things together to go home. And Top Dog gets a special Top Dog backpack to take home for the day, which includes a stuffed dog and a journal that should be written in, outlining the misadventures that the stuffed dog got to go on. All in all, it’s quite the honour for Erica and her classmates.
One thing I did not know until a recent conversation with her is that there is a calendar with the Top Dog schedule posted. I knew before speaking to her tonight that Erica had been Top Dog on April 6th, and would be again on April 30th — this she has told me in prior conversation, and excitedly so. Tonight, the topic of being Top Dog came up while we were on the phone.
“Do you know when I’m going to be Top Dog?” she asked me.
“April 30th,” I said, but without hearing me, she went on to mention her stint on April 6th as well as the upcoming one on the 30th of the month. “I remembered,” I said. “I’m very excited for you about it.”
“And you know what? Then I’m going to be the very, very last Top Dog and there won’t be any more,” she put a great deal of emphasis on this statement.
“What? Well, what about May?” I asked, and instantly felt like a giant asshole for it. “Do you mean you’re going to be the last Top Dog in April?”
I could tell over the phone that she deflated at my question. She didn’t respond much, and I realized how big a jerk I had been to interject the question. Thinking quickly, I circled back conversationally and asked again when she was going to be Top Dog next, and got her to the same point again to give myself another chance.
“And I’m going to be the very, very, last, last Top Dog,” she told me. “And then there won’t be any more.”
I made a much bigger deal out of it on the phone this time around. I made all the impressed noises I could think to make, and proceeded to tell her how proud I was of her. In truth, I was grateful for the chance to live the moment over.
“And then…” she began, cutting the silence again. “And then… it’s May.”