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Monday, October 17, 2016

The Continuity of Hope

Saturday was the annual Farm Festival at the little progressive school that my youngest and her so called lifer-friends attended from age 4 to 14. The festival takes over the entire city block where the school is located, with farm produce stands and children's games and hayrides and a pop-up thrift shop, plus a silent auction.

The annual fundraiser is put on every year by the first grade parents, who solicit all the donations and food, rent the tables and chairs, book the bands and street performers, and set up and break down all the rides and stations. I remember when it was our class's turn to do it, how utterly exhausted we were at the end of the day. I ran the farm produce stand that year, selling five kinds of apples, pumpkins, apple pies, cider and jars of homemade preserves, most of it originating from the school farm upstate. I took such pride in making the stand attractive, and felt a healthy competition to outdo the amount raised in previous years. Every group of first grade parents drinks that Kool Aid—it's why the fundraising aspect works so well. All want to be the class that raised the most, and put on the Farm Festival where the absolute most fun was had.

I remember that day was the first time that for several hours I had not a clue where my 6-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy were. I just trusted they were on the street somewhere with their friends. At the end of the day, we broke down the stalls, restored the school to order, counted the money, located our children and limped home. We locked the front door of our apartment, left the kids to their own devices, and slept for most of the next day. We felt tremendously accomplished, but every part of our bodies ached, which is why I have sympathy every year for the harried parents who are up at bat and running the show.

The kids, of course, always have a great time, which is why young alums, and older ones too, find their way back to Farm Festival every year. It almost has the feel of a pilgrimage. I got there late this year, toward to end of the festivities, when the alumni after party had already begun. This was a landmark year in that it was the first time the Farm Festival was being held at the school's new home, a much larger renovated building on the Upper West Side. Now it is home to the experiment in social, cultural and economic diversity that began in a rather elegant townhouse on the Upper East Side during the 1960s.

This year, I arrived to find my daughter and her friends sitting on the stage of the main auditorium, sipping wine, finally old enough to do such a thing in front of their former teachers. I greeted our kids with all the happiness I usually feel when I see their familiarity and comfort together, and then I went off with my friend Leslie to look at the rest of the school, six floors in all, with a central courtyard. The architects of the new space retained the feel of the old one, especially the grand staircase leading from the first floor, and the beautiful wall of lead-glass windows. Our young alums had earlier toured the school on their own, and pronounced it an acceptable successor to their own favored place.

Saturday was also my son's gf's birthday. He and she are both born in early October, and they planned a joint party at a club downtown with their multiple groups of friends. But first there was cake at our house. My son said, "Make a wish first!" right as S got ready to cut the cake. She took this very seriously, pausing, closing her eyes, and then taking a deep breath before continuing. It was a moment. I found myself wishing that her wish comes true, because she seemed to make it with a whole heart. And then they were off to celebrate somewhere out there in the city. My daughter joined them later. Such a good time was had, I heard, that my son's gf and my daughter proposed to one another and pledged to be sisters no matter what. I am surrounded by beautiful young people. With them as the heirs to our world, I'm tempted to believe that the future might not be so dire as the 2016 election season would suggest.

7 comments:

  1. I hope they both enjoyed their celebration, and yes, there is still some room for optimism in this world!

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  2. I love all of this. The continuity of community is just the most precious thing in this world except of course, for the tight knit bonds of a LOVING family.
    And I like the strength I see in your son's girlfriend.
    I wish all of these young people the very best and I surely do hope they can help turn things around because we look to be in a mighty mess. But I know they can. I know they can.

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  3. It's true; you only have to know a few good young people and you cannot stay pessimistic. And that fundraiser sounds wonderful. What a great idea!

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  4. I earnestly hope they will stay friends for their entire lives, may they always be so innocently and happy.

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  5. <3 <3 <3 Thank you for making me smile and happy tidings to all :o)

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  6. I don't know why, but this post made me cry. There was, I think, something ineffably sweet about it -- about the beautiful sentiments and powerful feelings behind your simple yet perfectly chosen words. Thank you.

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