. . . turns out maybe to be just chill!
winnetka, where i live, is a very small town and everyone knows everyone. or they think they do. and everyone knows the “appropriate” way of doing things. or they think they do. inappropriate is what you call anything your neighbors do that you don’t like.
i was at a gathering a few months ago and a woman told me that f2fb friend #231 maureen noble’s daughter was going away to boarding school. the woman said “boarding school” in that sweet and sour voice that suggests maureen’s daughter had “failed” at new trier high school but that the woman was too discreet to actually say so.
new trier high school is highly competitive school. all students are in the 99 percentile–grades, friends, sports, music, theater. if they’re not or if they’re not in any percentil whatsoever, well, something’s amiss. when joseph was a freshman, i received a “1%” letter from a band director who wanted joseph out of band because joseph’s playing was not at a national competition level. as a freshman. first semester. get him out of my class. now. i succumbed and signed off on letting him drop out of band. i think of it as one of the worst parenting decisions i’ve ever made.
the woman at this party continued. . . “the worst thing you ever did to maureen noble and her family was to cast maureen as the lead in the p.t.a. benefit show. it distracted maureen, pulled the family apart, it was . . . inappropriate. . . and the daughter suffered. now she’s . .. in boarding school.”
the word inappropriate is a good way of shutting down the conversation or expressing disapproval in a vague enough way that it's hard to dispute
i was stunned. i felt guilty. four short years ago, i was asked to write and direct a p.t.a. benefit show and i thought it had turned out okay. i remember thinking that maureen was a great star, an incredible singer, and so enthusiastic as a newcomer to winnetka! now i was being told “you’re a fuck up” and worse, “you fucked up somebody else’s house”.
so i was a little concerned when i emailed maureen on her birthday to say “hey, i’m doing this facebook project where i’m going to meet all my facebook friends this year!” and she emailed back that it wasn’t a good time. i thought, oh, whoops, i really did mess things up. i didn’t realize it was the very day that maureen returned to winnetka from taking her daughter to boarding school. no matter how good a mom feels about a decision like that, it isn’t a good day.
but i was so happy when maureen invited me to her house yesterday that when i realized i’d have to drive eight hours back to winnetka in order to make the moment, i was on it! however, i did a stupid thing: i drank so much caffeine on the road that i had to take motrin p.m. to get to sleep. jeez, i was strung out!!!
maureen was preparing for yom kippur, a day of fasting. but she wanted to share with me the beauty of rosh hoshanah the week before wherein one eats apples with honey. i really needed that because i was a little shaky from too much highway, too much caffeine, and too empty of a refrigerator when i got home!
when i came to her house, she talked freely about her daughter going to boarding school and her son being at the idyllwild arts academy in southern california. she showed me some of her children’s artwork. the noble children are not of the type that can be classified by percentiles–maureen would never say it, but i will: they are what would be called genius of the renaissance. that genius can’t be put in a box of nine periods per day, four thousand fellow students, weighted gpa, advanced placement testing. maureen and her husband have done what is the greatest sacrifice of parenthood: they have let their children go where they need to go in order to let them be who they need to be. i’m not sure i could have ever done that for joseph or eastman. i’m grateful i never had that. i was put up for adoption when i was three years old. i don’t know if i feel grateful but the circumstances were different.
maureen has developed a program for young girls to create bowls that evidence their strength. into these bowls, girls put the things that define themselves: courage, grace, patience, empathy.
maureen is thinking about what to do with herself now that herself is not involved in her children’s lives with the degree of exactitude as before. she has maintained her commitment to art. she showed me the most beautiful decoupage blocks, embroidered sacks, tags of extraordinary beauty and depth. she doesn’t very often show these artworks. and i thought–artists in the past have not existed without a patron. but does art exist without a market?
i told maureen about my fears with respect to the benefit show. had it been a bad idea?
the year she did the benefit show her husband asked each of the family members–maureen, their son, their daughter, and himself–to do the thing they most feared. for maureen, it was apparently bouncing around onstage under my direction. frankly, that would scare the hell out of me too! although maureen didn’t share with me what the other three members of her family did as their “courage initiative” she is quite firm that the nobles supported and still support each other. somehow i think this family is stronger with their children NOT at the high school five blocks away than it is with their children away.
then it was off to a confab with my travel magician–booking hotel rooms around the world. . . this reluctant tourist will be start by flying all the way to seoul, south korea to stay . . . at the best western!!! a little piece of home goes with me.