This month’s column was inspired by a chance email I received from Rene Craft. The email described her journey accepting that her son is autistic. It was such a moving and honest piece of writing that I asked if I could tell her story. She said yes and I got busy.
I was kind of struggling to come up with an idea for this month’s column. Because Austin had been such a hot bed of national politics for the last month, it only made sense that I think about families and politics. So I requested an audience with a fifth grade class at my daughter’s school to check out what eleven year olds might be thinking about Hillary vs. Barack vs McCain. I might as well have made coffee dates with each of their parents. I was about ready to pitch the notes from the class discussion when this memory of an argument I had with my Dad came crept out of hiding. And with it came this month’s column…
The Short version:
On Saturday March 8, Gabi was accepted into the Kealing Magnet Program and I was accepted into MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College. We are both thrilled.
The Long Version:
Last Saturday morning, I answered the phone to hear, “Ms. Lane, this is Principal Jeanne Goka at the Ann Richards School. I just want to tell you I read your article and I want to thank you for helping get our message out.” Uh, thanks. “And I also want to call to tell you that Gabriella did not get admitted in to the Ann Richards School.” Hmmm…talk about a one-two punch. “I just wanted to call and tell you that news so that you would have a chance to prepare Gabriella for the letter. She definitely made it into our lottery. She’s more than qualified to be a student here but with a lottery, you never know who is going to be picked. I know she will make it into Kealing.” No lie, Jeanne Goka does talk non-stop. “And I hope you will consider applying to Ann Richards when she’s finished at Kealing.” There was a pause. I asked, “So you read the article first and then called me?” “Well, yes, I read the article and then I wanted to know if Gabriella had been admitted. That’s why I am calling. Her application was very strong. Very strong. All the teachers’ recommendations were top notch. She would absolutely fit right in at Ann Richards. I am sorry we aren’t going to have her. But with a lottery, it’s a numbers thing.” We chatted a bit more. Mostly me asking for further clarifications or reiterations. Goka does sort of barrage the listener. And then we hung up. and I was left to tell Gabi the news. I took lots of deep breaths and then I gave her the news pretty much the way Goka told it. Lots of praise. Lots of talking about how great her application was. And then of course, the ultimate news of how she was in the lottery but her number didn’t get picked. And finally, Goka’s invitation to apply to the Ann Richard School for high school. Gabi took the news in stride. The Ann Richards School was her second choice and she definitely heard all the praise.
So I knew the middle school letters were coming in the mail that day. Rather than wait around for the mail to come, we checked out the opening of the Long Performing Arts Center downtown. THen we did errands. Then we rode home and opened the fish mailbox. To my surprise, there were three letters inside: Ann Richards, Kealing and Vermont College. She and I opened the Kealing and Vermont letters at the same time, read our first lines and shrieked at the same time. WoooHooo….we made it. It’s a moment I will long remember.
I’ve been a little busy: my grad school application, my daughter’s middle school applications, an online class and, oh yeah, life.
It only makes sense that this month’s column be about what was taking up the most space in my head: my daughter’s middle school application. After going to numerous open houses, magnet fairs and principal coffees, I decided to document our experience for the benefit of others.
Writing a column, by definition, means that it is a first account of my experience, which means, if another person had written this column they might have had a totally different experience at all the middle school fairs and open houses. It is the downside and the upside of writing a first person account. The upside? My experience is my experience. The critics can’t discredit you because I am speaking from my experience. The downside: My experience is only my experience. The critics can spout their experience, which might be diametrically opposed to mine.
As soon as this month’s column hit the stands, the response was immediate. First Fulmore. Then O’Henry. Both shot off letters to the editor, vouching for the redeemable qualities of their schools. I debated for a bit about writing them back. I did in one case and didn’t in the other. I finally landed in the space that these letter writers get to have their opinion, as did I. It’s best to let their voices be heard and not get into a squabbling match.
Another column. Another road trip in my mind. This time, though, I had part of the title working in my head: the strange intimacies of parenthood. I’d had that phrase in my head for a while because of all the relationships I’d formed with other parents. Some close. Some not so close. It all felt very familiar somehow, so I started the car and took off exploring…
Long before I became a parent, while I was still in the throes or sprouting wings and having them clipped by my parents, I used to wonder on a semi-regular basis, how the heck was I born into my family? …