Monday, October 18, 2004

Some Kid

Charlotte died last night. She died as she has millions of times before, once for every childhood reader of E.B. White's classic, "Charlotte's Web," with grace, dignity, and enduring charm.

Teen Spirit hovered outside the bedroom door waiting to see OSFO's response to the inevitable demise of the beloved spider. Barely seconds after Smartmom finsished the last few sentences of White's masterpiece: "She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both," Teen Spirit walked into the room, discreetly sussing out OSFO's emotional state.

"Did you cry?" Teen Spirit asked tenderly.

"No!" OSFO shouted out with characteristic exuberance.

"You didn't?" said Teen Spirit, who has been known to get pleasantly weepy at the conclusion of a book.

"I knew she was going to die, our teacher read the book to us in first grade!" OSFO said incredulously.

"Oh," said Teen Spirit slinking back into his room next door.

And like all good endings, death begets rebirth. Along with Wilbur, the reader is comforted by the birth of Joy, Aranea, and Nellie, Charlotte's daughters who make their webs in Wilbur's barn and keep him company.

And so it goes. Even Smartmom has been known to rise out of the depths of desperation with energy and exhilaration. A case in point: the continuing search for Teen Spirit's dream high school.

As you know, the high school "problem" was feeling a tad overwhelmiing last week thanks to a disheartening PTA meeting at Middle School 51, the disappointing high school fair in the gymnasium, and exhausting nightime visits to high schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan (See OTBKB posts: New York City Nightmare #2004 and One Thing is Certain). Smartmom felt as if she was falling behind before she'd even begun.

Yet, activity creates the illusion of control and productivity. And Smartmom, after spending the weekend at the big city-wide high school fairs, is feeling a little bit more in control of the situation. And boy does she like that even if it's not even remotely true.

Saturday found the family at the Brooklyn School for the Arts for the Brooklyn and Staten Island High School Fair. At the front table, there were hundreds of copies of the much delayed, much coveted "High School Guide Book." The procurrance of that book, worth its weight in gold to desperate middle school parents, was well worth the price of admission to the fair (okay, the fair was free but the hassle, for god's sake, the hassle). Wonder what it's worth on the steps of MS 51?

Smartmom, with a very patient OSFO in tow, visited table after table, and talked to teachers and students, collecting too many flyers and brochures in the process. The building was unbearably noisy and unbearably crowded. Teen Spirit went outside half-way through to get some air and to calm his nerves. Who can blame him.

The students who showed up to talk up their schools were, in most cases, extremely helpful. It was downright moving to see these hyper-articulate kids describe the curriculum and social atmosphere at their schools in depth. Smartmom felt like she was getting the real deal on these schools from those who know the score.

Teen Spirit was good-to-go when Smartmom, Hepcat and OSFO retrieved him outside the school building on Dean Street. Luckily, they ran into a good friend from Teen Spirit's beloved day camp, Park Explorers, who is also interested in the same high school in Sunset Park that Teen Spirit is currently interested in.

Later, Teen Spirit confided to Smartmom that he was really relieved because of his camp friend's interest in the school. "I was very nervous because most of my friends want to go to Murrow and LaGuardia where I don't want to go. I was afraid I wouldn't know anyone where I want to go."

Smartmom could barely conceal her relief that Teen Spirit was relieved. Also, she always gets super excited when Teen Spirit confides in her. But she absolutely does NOT let on. No, no, no. Smartmom is fast becoming a pro at projecting just the right amount of disinterest in Teen Spirit's affairs. She's found that if she seems too interested in anything, Teen Spirt retreats. For this reason, Smartmom has adopted a vigilently blase stance, which seems to do the trick. It actually seems to invite more confidences.

Smartmom's new motto is: "If you need me I'm here and if you don't, I am nowhere in sight." That said, Smartmom is keeping close tabs on all of Teen Spirit's activities in school and out. It's just that she can't be too obvious or else he will feel that she is invading his space. And that's the death knell for parent/teen relationships.

Sunday morning, Teen Spirit was too tired to get out of bed, exhausted by the very idea of schlepping to another high school fair. Hepcat finally convinced him to get out from under his cozy, blue plaid comforter and get dressed. The family visited the High School Fair for Manhattan and Specialized Schools at Ft. Greene's Brooklyn Tech High School. Teen Spirit toured the fair with Best Buddy, his mom and others. Smartmom kept a healthy distance from Teen Spirit's group, intuiting that he wanted to go it alone.

Later, as Smartmom, Teen Spirit, and OSFO (on scooter) walked and scooted up Fifth Avenue, Teen Spirt confided in Smartmom that he really wants to go to a small high school. (Walking trips, Smartmom has found, are absolutely essential for deep talks between parent and teen). He also told her that he wants to study history. "Most of my friends hate history. But I love it. All the stories, the people. It's not like math where everything is rational, where there's one correct answer. There are so many different ways to look at things in history." Smartmom was low key in her appreciation of Teen Spirit's wonderful insights.

"Uh huh," was all that she said.

Back in Park Slope, the three walked past Park Slope Kids Bookstore where a giant black spider's web is currently gracing the window. A Halloween decoration, it is also a home-spun homage to "Charlotte's Web." And on the far right corner of the web are Charlotte's immortal words: "Some Pig,"

"Some Pig." The three stared for some time at this lovely evocation of Charlotte's web. But the weather was raw, and the group was feeling cold. They raced across the street to Connecticut Muffin for hot chocolate and slices of delicious Lemon Yogurt Pound Cake.


At 12:37 PM, Blogger mrs. cleavage said...

dear SM, I hope I exhibit the same wisdom when its my turn. thanks for the nuggets & your tibetan incantations cd is ready. i'll give it to Mrs. K to drop off if i don't see you before tomorrow. from one EB White fan to another --WB


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