America IS Beautiful, School Calendars Are Yucky

What to love and loathe about living in East Greenwich this week.

RAVE: My husband is English. I note this because he views the fact that I stand and cover my heart for the national anthem with benign amusement. This sort of display would most definitely be frowned upon in Queen’s country.

It’s not that I am zealously patriotic; for me, it’s a sign of respect for my country and also, for those who risk their lives to ensure that the values conceived by our founding fathers not only survive, but thrive.

Yet even he, hardened cynic that he is, admits that the spontaneous rising of the Summer’s End audience during the U.S. Navy Concert Band’s rendition of America the Beautiful was a meaningful moment. This song is a love letter to America. Unlike our unsingable (well, unsingable for me, but then my family would tell you that all songs are unsingable for me) national anthem, this song is a love letter to a land and its people – it isn’t about a flag or a battle. It’s about the possibilities of this nation.

The itself is a night of community. Friends and neighbors gather to celebrate and perhaps commiserate over the end of summer (technically we still have three more calendar weeks before the actual season ends, but life culturally changes – the school busses are back on the road blocking traffic, the white shoes go back in the closet, schedules become busier).

But this unscheduled ovation was more than that. This was our town, our country, at its best. We may have no amber waves of grain, purple mountain majesties or fruited plains in East Greenwich but, for a brief moment, our town came together and stood in unity and we all – Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Cool Moosers, Libertarian, et al – truly were America, the beautiful.

RANT: I know, I said I would get off of my school obsession. But that’s the thing with obsessions – you can’t just shake ‘em and move on (if that were the case, I would be able to pass a plate of chocolate chip cookies without inhaling them faster than you can say “Cookie Monster”).

So, here is my latest school fixation – the school calendar. Did my parents have such a specific itemization of my day when I was wending my way through the grades? I vaguely recall a monthly lunch menu, but I thought that was devised to torture me as my mother, who could have coached Dr. Oz in healthy eating tenants, was no way, no how, letting me near the school’s version of a happy meal.

But Teacher Orientation (visions of teachers in Outward Bound gear, traversing the halls on zip lines come to mind)? Senior Projects (I don’t even have a senior – except my husband – why do I need to know when this is?)? An itemization of how many days the kids spend in school per month (is this a math test? am I supposed to be checking the totals? am I supposed to care?)? PD Paras and Sec. (what is that even????)? And this is just the main EGSD calendar. Then there’s Orientation Days for the rest of us (get your compasses ready), Open Houses (isn’t this for when you are selling building?), Flu Clinics, concerts, plays, dances, special programs and a million and one other things.

So what’s my rant? The fact that by the time I have inputted all of these not-to-be-missed-Kodak-moments of my children’s’ lives in my calendar, not only am I exhausted, (I swear, their calendars are busier than mine), I am also a blubbery mess.

In the time it took me to note class meetings, father/daughter dances, PTG meetings, practice times and field trips and, again, a million and one other things, a hundred slides have flashed before my eyes: My son’s first day of kindergarten, the first time my daughter jumped Double Dutch in recess without tripping, the day they both learned to write their names, the time my son won a state prize for an essay he wrote (good mother that I am, I didn’t believe him and assured him he had misheard), the day he scored his first goal in soccer, the day she did the same, their first plays (they were both gnomes), concerts and Valentine’s Day cards from classmates.

Where has all the time gone?

Not only that, I am already projecting through October, November, December and so on til June. I know where the kids will be and what they will be doing most days and when I have to be there too.

I know that the school calendar is what Martha Stewart would call “a good thing” or what those movie review guys would give two thumb’s up. But there is something disheartening about it all the same. It feels like there's no room for spontaneity. There's no room for a wild hare. There's just predictability.

Perhaps that's the crux of the matter – this sort of calendar planning feels like denying possibility that this is the year I take the kids to Italy for six months of intensive language immersion or I keep them home and teach them the things I really think are really important – like how to grow and preserve food and think independently. It feels like their days, hours, minutes are already set in stone and the rest of life has to revolve around them. I know that's not entirely true, but that's what it feels like. 

My only hope? The computer crashes and I lose my bearings.

Jen C. September 09, 2012 at 02:57 PM
As you were looking at the school calendar, did you notice that we only have 7, 5-day school weeks between the start of school and the New Year! While I love the gradual start that going before Labor Day allows, by the time you add in all the primary and general election days, religious holidays, parent-teacher conferences and federal holidays everyone misses so much school that getting into a good routine is truly difficult (I'd rather get out earlier in June or save one of those days off for March, it is such a long, dark month!)


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