Tuesday, January 23, 2007

child left behind

P.S. 112 stands on the corner of a what passes for a "quiet residential street" in Astoria, Queens, just west of several blocks of industrial-looking warehouses. It is bordered on the north by a large and welcoming playground, where some of the younger students go to play during pleasant weather.

The building itself is standard-issue mid-20th century brown brick. An iron fence ensures that all who enter go through the side door, which is monitored by a serious yet mercurial woman in a blue uniform and yellow-dyed hair.

The walls are, unbelievably, institutional green of a shade you'd think was too cliche to still be sold by the paint companies. The hallways echo with students' voices, the after-lunch movie from the auditorium, the occasional loudspeaker paging.

I am here to meet with my daughter Stella's teacher and therapists. This is our third meeting, and we began to get together in the fall when her physical therapist was concerned about Stella's lack of participation in the activities. In addition to Debbie, the physical therapist, and Pat, her teacher, the menage consists of Mindy, the speech therapist, and Rose, the occupational therapist, and the adaptive physical educator, a lovely young woman whose name escapes me at the moment.

They are all concerned about Stella, as we are. On previous visits my husband and I went together, and he felt as if too much time had been spent talking about what we could do at home to help her adjust to the routine, and not enough about what they were doing to help her learn. On this occasion, I am alone (Bob has a rehearsal), and I am anxious. We'd scheduled a meeting for the two weeks prior, but I was sick and Bob had a rehearsal and we both forgot to call and cancel. That was the day, too, that Stella was sent home sick, and was subsequently out of school for eight days (including the long weekend). As it is, I am running late, and Debbie calls my cell phone to make sure I haven't forgotten again.

The room is not large, but there is space enough. After brief greetings, we sit in small chairs, in a circle. I have removed my coat, hat, scarf, and taken out a notebook and pen. There is a palpable tension, and to break it, I ask about the daily routine, taking careful notes. It has occurred to me that I have a very unclear idea of what my daughter does every day, and somehow it seems important that I remedy that.

[more later]

Friday, January 19, 2007

Boy, Uninterrupted

Please pardon the horrible pun in my title. Yeah, I just watched that movie starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie's lips on the tube. Well, part of it--I toggled back and forth between that and Revenge of the Nerds, not because I was particularly enjoying it, but because I was morbidly fascinated by the way it deals with race. There's a thesis in there for someone at Bowling Green.

Anyway, I spent some uninterrupted time with my amazing son this evening, beginning with "Curriculum Night" at his school. I had to face the fact that I have not yet entered his classroom this year, stuff the guilt and move on. It was enjoyable--they have been studying the rain forest, so there was some reading aloud by students, a little quiz, and an art project: we made "rain sticks" with paper towel tubes into which we drove nails (!), poured an assortment of buttons, and then closed off with foil at each end. They worked!

Afterwards, we went to the stylish diner down the street for dessert (him) and dinner (me). I took a picture on my cell phone of him preparing to eat his cupcake, looking angelic-like.

You press your hands together as if in prayer,
eyes closed, poised over the cupcake that lasts
about ninety seconds. Sipping the lemonade
you bargained for, you mention the baby
that died before it was born--I didn't remember
telling you--I told you why it happened, how
mothers find out--and then we talked about Stella,
your sister--"Stella made it" her heart, why the hole
was there when she was born. In the cab home,
I tell you how they fixed it, the Gore-tex patch,
the stitch, the perfect results, the cardiologist
who moved to New Jersey. We're home, and the driver
says, "Smart boy. You'll be a doctor someday,"
and before bed we watch a comedy about doctors
singing and dancing for a patient because her brain
is broken, and then they fix it and she doesn't
hear the music anymore.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My Brilliant Son

This appropos of a discussion of nakedness, after I reminded him that I have seen him naked since he was born:
"People come out naked--they need to find their size."
Spoken like the true son of a shopaholic.

In other news, Stella is down with a virus, my poor baby! Feverish, mucus-y, doing this thing that is a cross between coughing and vomiting--ugh!

Her brother is actually jealous because she gets to stay home from school...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Getting Focused

The sun is high, the sky Magritte blue-accented-with-puffy-white. It finally feels like winter, although after a real cold snap, today's temps would seem balmy.

So many ideas, so many projects I could start, unfinished ones I could finish. I actually started writing in the green notebook again--that's the one I was feeling uncomfy about, felt the words needed to be more polished there. Bah! It's just paper.

Yesterday, I was scheduled to participate in a focus group about Gap.com. I was actually excited at the possibility of talking about my shopping habits with a group of other New Yorkers. It was just a few blocks from FIT, where I was planning to go that day anyway, and they were going to pay me $125 cash.

I started a journal entry (in the green notebook) in anticipation of making some interesting observations about our culture, the marketplace, my fellow humans. The words were workaday, as if I were reporting to some supervisor. No matter, I thought, the experience will surely spark something more lively.

As it turned out, the whole thing was a non-event. I showed up right at 3:15, signed in, got a little table tent with "Amy L." printed on it, filled out a brief questionnaire, and went to the waiting area. After about five minutes, a young blond woman with a clipboard came and asked me some of the questions I'd already answered over the phone the previous week in order to "qualify." She thanked me and left. I continued to enter contact numbers into my new cell phone. Around 3:45, a petite dark-haired woman came in and called some names. Three women went with her. "Amy? I'll be back to talk to you in a little bit," she reassured.

I was struck by how this was and wasn't like waiting in the doctor's office: the surroundings were about as enticing--gray carpet, white walls, gray plastic chairs--but I wasn't feeling the sense of frustration. I had a slight concern that, since I hadn't started yet, they would be keeping me after the designated time of 5 p.m., but that was all.

At 4 p.m. sharp, the young man from the front desk came in and asked me to come with him. I initialed the last column of the sign-in sheet, he handed me an envelope, and the young folks at Advanced Focus bid me goodbye.

Yes, the envelope contained the promised cash. I made a hundred and twenty-five bucks for sitting around for forty-five minutes. End of story. Capitalism rules.