Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The End of March

Tonight I am turning down Fordham University's offer to join their English Masters program. I am picturing myself a year and a half ago on the back porch at my parents' house pregnant, cracking open a book on Cracking the GRE, making mental pictures to remember words like kappellmeister and palimpsest. Then fast forward to taking the test, even more pregnant, to writing the Statement of Intent, anxiously asking for recommendations. Then finding out last year that the program I wanted was being suspended. Re-applying this January for a new program. And now, after all that, here I am turning it down. 

And listening to this song, over and over.

Alex says, "Isn't there any way you can go? Can you get a loan? Will it help you get a job?"

"No. Yes. No."

Yes, I suppose I could take out a loan and go. But it's ludicrously ill-advised. It was ill-advised back when I was 22. Then it would have been possible to justify. But now, I'll be content with getting the chance, even if I have to turn it down.

Every once in a while I hear a song, and I for some reason think of my blog, and just posting the song there and telling everyone to listen and saying, "That." That's what I'm trying to say. Not the words, necessarily. But the feeling. What I tried to say myself through music for many years. What I tried to say through novels, poems, short stories, blog posts, songs, late-night wine-soaked conversations, hoarse throats, dirty hands, stained clothes and trains no longer running. Or even way before, high school at the rainy Arboretum, not a drop of liquor anywhere near us, conversations that went on to infinity, impossible euphoria at moments of insight and all the rest of the time vastly disconnected, trying to define our ideals, trying to decide which way to go, which experience more authentically lived up to the image we had of ourselves, which one would bring me closer to my imagined life by the sea, one I never really lived except in summers in a cottage given up many many years ago now, in the one I haven't stepped foot in since before I had children, since I was a wanna be rock star and the furthest thing from a mom. I wasn't a mom at that time. How can that be? The role that I inhabit now that takes up every inch of me most days I think, the preoccupations, the PTA fundraisers, the piles of hand-me-down clothes, playground meetups, the wills I still have never signed, the floor covered with plant-based BPA free recycled plastic toys. There was a time that meant so much before I became a mom. And I think to how started my blog - wondering about all these moms around me and if they were anybody other than moms because as even though I myself was one as moms alone I could not relate to them, felt no there there, no substance, no somebody that I didn't used to know. But I was somebody I used to know and it's so hard sometimes to remember or find that or feel that but when I listen to certain songs I used to love way way back it comes swelling back and sometimes it rises up from a new song I never heard before but is there wired somewhere in deep recesses like you have heard it though you know you never had. It's full to breaking with nostalgia somehow. And that's how it is for this one.

This song I only found out about from Girls, which itself is so terribly inauthentic and very uncool. Also who knows what feeling you'll have listening to the song. I can't just assume anyone else will have the same one that slams into me. It does help though, to remember why I chose to be a kappellmeister for all those years in my 20s when going to grad school would have been feasible if still really ill-advised. And now it's time to pull out the palimpsest, forget what's been scraped out, scratched out, made invisible, and start writing, again. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

You Don't Really Need to Know All You Learn in Kindergarten

Wally used to love to write stories. I always have notebooks lying around for him to pick up whenever he feels like writing. I may not be a good model of coping with frustration or choosing fruit for dessert but I do model writing. (Try to balance out Alex's tablet habit at least a little bit.) My only complaint about Wally's writing was that his stories were too long. He would come up with some outlandish idea that it had to be 42 pages and then set to work drawing and writing then crumple up into a teary ball if he didn't have time to finish before dinner. 

Fast forward from last summer to now, and you have a six-year old who can no longer stand to pick up his journal. He hates writing. Why? Because he does it for an hour a day every day in school. That is on top of reading, math, and other sit-down, academic work. And it's not that he's struggling. He's reading and writing incredibly well. It's just that he's got a lot of energy and his mind is racing, and he is not meant to sit at a desk for an hour writing every day. They do have wonderful art and music programs, but outside of a 20-minute recess, if they are lucky and nothing else squeezes it out, they have a 25-minute "choice time" (play time) at the end of each day. That's it as far as playing goes during their 6-hour Kindergarten day. Less than an hour. They have too much else they "need" to learn.

I was thinking about Robert Fulghum's famous book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. When it came out it seemed genius in its simplicity. So right and so true that you think upon reading that Kindergarten teachings apply to life on a broad scale from how to get along with others to accepting the life cycle. One of those ideas that's so dead on that once you hear it, you think, how could I not have thought of this? 

Fulghum must have gone to Kindergarten in about 1942, so things had presumably changed a bit by the time he published the book in 1989. Yet at that time, nearly half a century after he learned what he learned in Kindergarten, what he wrote about still appeared to be entirely on point. You did learn to share (toys). To clean up your own mess (fingerpaints). You were likely to be given cookies for snack. You took a nap! You learned your first word. But reading the list now, it would come across as charmingly anachronistic, quaint even, if it wasn't so painful a reminder of what's missing from kindergarten today.  

Here from The Washington Post today: 

Nap time has been cancelled. A follow-up letter to career-ready kindergarteners

Thankfully it's a satire, but not too far off from the real story here