29 July 2011

Each another's audience

I am sitting in a self-consciously hip hotel, huge windows facing a performance space across the street that is equally glass fronted. It is dark out, rainy, and I have the shades up, the desk lamp on and angled toward the glass, and I watch the people moving about in the opposite building. Then the lights across the street are flashing on and off, on and off, and the small crowd swarms about. I realize belatedly that the lights are the house lights, the small crowd is being called to sit somewhere within.

If any of the crowd were to look across the street and up, they'd easily see me sitting here, tapping away. For all I know, someone did while I was editing and posting the photo that just went up on the photo blog. I like to watch people when I think I'm unobserved. I know others do the same.

Yesterday was A Day. Driving up from Princeton on I-95, something enormous hit the rental's windshield, cracking it from top to bottom. Ten miles later, a white station wagon one lane over suddenly began spinning across four lanes of traffic. Fortunately, everyone on the road at that moment except the driver of the station wagon had his or her game face on, and was able to stop as the station wagon slalomed back and forth and back again, crossing and recrossing the entire breadth of I-95. I'll never know what caused him to lose control of the car--I know it was a him; I could see his slack face as easily as he'd have been able to see me staring white-faced at him over my dash had he turned--and once he'd come to a stop, he took off again, racing on down the freeway.

I was still shaking when I got to the hotel a half-hour later, and the kids were uncharacteristically silent.

Today, yet another school. As the admissions officer gave her spiel, I watched the recent grad who was also presenting examine the audience, not that I was supposed to notice that. I'm sure it's strange for him, too, graduated from student to salesman. The oddest bit of all this for me is that little has changed about the process since I was applying to schools. Really, it's just the parents who have changed along with their approach to parenting (cookbook, recipe. I know I say that alot, but it's what the son and I see daily in his classmates and their parents. The school's college counselor is preaching the same gospel that I am).

I suppose this is where I tell you that I am not the one driving the applications to the Ivies. That's coming 100% from the kid. He's a driven boy and likes what he sees in these places and appreciates the opportunity to pursue a broad education. I'm not really surprised; he has a disproportionate amount of my DNA, and both the spouse and I are products of a very similar educational philosophy. He's spent years watching us and our approach to the world, has absorbed the fact that we never stop learning, never stop challenging ourselves and those around us.

So, I guess we had this coming.

It is a Friday night and I'm sitting at a desk in front of a large window in New Haven, Connecticut. I am watching the city burble along below me: people, cars, the occasional emergency vehicle. I never really lose sight of the fact that I am broadcasting here; that's really the point of the title of this blog: what I send out of the kitchen, and when I'm home, it's literal because that's where my desk is. But I often don't think about it, in much the same way that I fail to notice the people around me on the street, at the mall, at concerts. In the same way that they fail to notice that I, too, am watching.

In the same way that I see that years of my own actions and my love of the educational process may have spoken louder than any of the millions of words I've uttered throughout that time.

Go listen to some good music: "Limelight" from the album Moving Pictures by Rush. Yes, I've been rather one note in my musical leanings lately. And yes, the hotel is self-consciously hip, but it's also comfortable and rather cute. Also, I'd really rather be home with my cat. Finally, don't ever get the impression that I'm patting myself on the back for the way I've raised these kids. I'm following my gut and I'm scared to death.

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