When I came to New York for the first time, I was fourteen years old. My dad and I went into Tiffany’s on 5th Avenue where my dad thought he was going to buy my mother a present. He spied a modest looking tennis bracelet and asked to look at it, thinking it was the perfect choice: elegant, classic and not too flashy. He asked the clerk to remove it from the case. This allowed my father to see the item more closely and to encounter its $85,000.00 price tag. I was mortified to be there with my dad, a successful physician from Colorado, who had just learned that he was totally out of his element. I felt like I was standing there in overalls, suddenly, with a piece of hay sticking out of my teeth. I, naturally, wanted to shrivel up and apologize to the sales clerk, who must have been so put out by our plebeian presumptuousness. But my dad, without missing a beat, asked to look at the companion necklace. That one cost over $150,000.
I still remember how he handled the jewelry confidently, poker-faced and said, “Hmm. These are beautiful.” Very convincingly, like he totally would have bought both if only he didn’t have to rush out to fly to St. Tropez. Of course we left after that, empty handed. We headed back to the Trump Plaza food court where we belonged and where my mother was enjoying a four dollar diet coke.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this offered great preparation for the kindergarten applications process in Manhattan.
It is hard to live in NYC, and especially on the upper east side of Manhattan, with anyone under the age of 5 and not be obsessed with finding a kindergarten placement. Before my time came, back when the baby Bjorn was a permanent part of my wardrobe and my main goal in life was to shower and get four consecutive hours of sleep in the same day, I thought that I would be above the fray. Other people would worry, but not me! How could anyone get so caught up in kindergarten. “It’s kindergarten!” I would scoff, convinced that I would not get caught up in the madness. In retrospect, I realize now, that I was so convinced that I was going to be above it all because I was also so convinced that my child would just get in anywhere he applied. And if he didn’t, why, we would just send him to our local public school.
Things did not quite go as planned. For one, I am writing this essay from my new home in NJ. Though the admissions process, or I guess I should say rejections process, took a different trajectory than I had initially hoped, I am happy with the way things turned out. My child is in a nice school, with a great teacher, and he is learning all the things I think a student is supposed to learn in kindergarten: reading, writing, and how to make obnoxious noises with his armpit.
I documented our “journey” from applications, interviews, to waiting for all of those thin envelopes, to Edgewater. And if I can ever figure out how to embed a link, I will do so here.