08 November, 2006

a really wonderful book

Remember I mentioned "A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity" to you? Well, halfway through it, it was just a charming book. Very funny about a group of women who get really, really invested in their daughters' lives, worrying over their social status, their clothes, their history essays, their carpools. It all rang true to me, especially the part where the main character, Lydia, explains that "When we moms are talking about the Spring Fair or cotton-fleece drawstring shorts, we're talking shop. In some ways it isn't any different from when the men talk about how their firms are billing. We are talking about our jobs, too..." That is so true! From the outside looking in, it would seem that having coffee with other mothers is just social life, and in a way of course it is. But it's also part of our jobs: to build relationships with the mothers of our children's friends, so you're speaking the same language when it comes to discipline, homework, what is acceptable for your children to say to you, what sorts of presents you bring to birthday parties. It's all part of building a little world within which your child can function in lots of different settings because the professionals in charge (the moms) have made it all consistent, and safe, and life-enhancing. In this world, what is one person's gossip is another person's (a mother's) essential due diligence.

That was all a lot of fun to read about. The author, Kathleen Gilles Seidel, has a funny caustic wit, and the character has a great deal of strength, tenacity and honesty, but also somewhere between the author and the character I suspect a lot of overlap has taken place, and that adds to the authenticity of the story.

But then at the end it became all about my life! It has been so wonderful seeing Avery so happy at school that I haven't spent much time thinking about what we left behind. And everyone has been so ready to welcome me as another mother at school that I have certainly not felt left out, not at all. But when Lydia realizes that the school she has chosen for her children and been part of for so many years, since they were really tiny, is no longer best for them and she needs to move them to another school, it all felt just like having to leave P.S. 234 in New York for our school here.

"Living in a small town teaches you a lot, but one thing it doesn't teach you is how to say goodbye. Families don't move away as much as they do in D.C., and even when you do, you don't say goodbye because your parents are still there and you will be coming back... This time I was going to say goodbye, bid farewell to the first place I had felt so completely a part of, so completely at home.

What precious, precious memories I had - the Halloween parades with the masses of little witches, Indians and princesses; Erin and her friends wearing their Brownie uniforms for the first time, both Erin and Thomas being so excited about reading their first 'chapter' book; and that funny, wonderful moment when Erin was in first grade and one of her friends saw me and chirped, "Hi, Mrs. Erin's Mom."...

I wasn't just saying goodbye to the school; I was saying goodbye to my children being young."

It's hard to leave behind a place where your child was born, and then was the talkative baby that all the doormen and grocery store checkout girls learned to know by name, and then was the best customer at the ridiculously expensive children's clothing shop (when they gave Avery a doll with "Happy 5th Birthday, Avery" embroidered on it, John said suspiciously, "How much are you spending there?"). She was little there. There's no denying that by the time we arrived in London, she was a bit of a young lady, and all the more so since we've been here. I guess part of what touched me about this book was how important it is to notice when you're leaving one part of your child's life behind, how good it has been, and then to notice again when the new life is heartwarming and lovely as well. We've been very lucky. Thank you Becky, for loaning me the book! Among other things.

Yesterday at school pickup when I introduced Avery to a mother friend of mine, she shook hands and curtsyed! Eeek, what happened to my rough and tumble child who once clocked a classmate over the head with a broom handle? Of course, the other child started it.

John is off to New York, or rather to Red Gate Farm, for a week, where we have a sinking feeling we packed up ALL the bedlinens, towels, and other tiny details that make life possible, in boxes in the basement in case our realtor found a renter (which she didn't: her emailed assurance that she would "suspend all showings" while John was there fell on slightly deaf ear: I couldn't imagine that she was leading swarms of people through the place when he wasn't there). He hasn't been away since the first week in September, so Avery and I are a bit flustered contemplating life as just the two of us. I suspect that Emmy will spend more time parked on Green Street, as I am still not wholly comfortable driving here. John promises to report all news from Connecticut, where the fall foliage is no doubt a bit more spectacular than it is here. But this morning when I opened my window shade, there was a shower of golden leaves fluttering to the ground in the garden: a rather muted, but still lovely, sign of autumn.

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