Finally! I am waiting for some cupcakes to cool before frosting them, so I thought I would take this brief reprieve to post a little something, since it has been a while. The cupcakes are for the school Harvest Fete tomorrow. (It's really just the fall class party, but "Harvest Fete" sounds so much more soignee, no? Anyway, the school cannot call it a Halloween Party, being that they are affiliated with a religious institution. Perhaps you will see a photo, perhaps not. Of the cupcakes. Not the religious institution. But I digress.)
Parent-Teacher conferences were yesterday, and unusually, I showed up a little early. Bored with trying to figure out the latest on the Ashton-Demi debacle through the wonders of my smartphone and internet tabloid rags, I wandered the halls a bit. Fortunately, my girls are great students, so I don't have to visit the school much. Not that I am not involved (see above description of cupcake crafting); I just (knock on wood) haven't had to do more than provide treats and chaperone field trips. I like it that way. I was not born to be a room mother or helicopter parent (not that they are necessarily the same breed, mind you). I do communicate with the teachers, and with other parents, just usually at carpool and birthday parties, so it is rare that I actually enter those hallowed halls.
My girls and their classmates had just completed a project on a timeline of their lives. The posterboards lined the hallway, and it was such a delight to read about the seminal events in these children's lives. Some of the kids had been with the girls since the three-year-old class, and I felt a little twinge seeing pictures of them in chubbier states, toddling along with various stuffed creatures tucked under their tiny arms. I remembered how some of the students came in to school speaking only the foreign language they had learned at home, like the little girl who only spoke Korean until four years ago. Now, her English is unaffected, strong and sure - but she still has the benefit and gift of that first language.
It was obvious that some of the parents had a heavier hand in the production of these projects - the handwriting was too neat, the wording too advanced for that age group. Although the posters were all different, there was an element of sameness in them: trips to Disneyland, to the beach, first football games, swim meets and soccer tournaments. Even the more esoteric events were products of privilege: Renaissance Faires and swimming with the dolphins, sleepaway camps and horseback riding.
At first glace, the mini-biographies could be seen as the banal outcropping of a solid middle-class suburban life.I thought about the events around the world the last few weeks, and felt humbled by good fortune. A lot of us are ground down a bit by the day-to-day, shuttling kids from school to activities, trying to schedule family time between work and errands. The displays at school yesterday were happy, colorful pieces of art, innocence untouched. There were remembrances of parents who had gone to Iraq, and perhaps the death of a beloved pet, but for the most part, they were joyful celebrations of lives just beginning. Think of the children in Misrata, or Kabul, or Baghdad. What would their timelines look like? Instead of trips to see Mickey, we might read about relatives that had been brutally murdered by a corrupt regime, the wish to go back to school and learn, the longing for something more than a bowl of rice as the once-a-day meal. All of us have our own struggles, and I know, though I hate to contemplate it, that those happy posters may not reflect the reality of all of those children's lives. We know what can lurk in a family's shadows. That isn't my focus, now. My focus is, for myself, to remember to be grateful for the freedoms and choices I can make, and the relative safety I enjoy - and to remember to not take these things for granted.
When somebody asks me, "How are you?" I try never to say "Great!" or, conversely, "Terrible." I say, "I'm OK, thank God." Because that is what I am. It could always be better, always be worse. There but for the grace of God go I, right? In a world in chaos (I'd like to give a big shout-out and a "whoop whoop!" to Angela Merkel and her smooth moves that helped get that European debt crises in line...you go, girl!) I am doing my best to keep perspective. It's all I can do.
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