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.
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.