I dropped Grumble off for the opening day of school this morning with the startling realization that this is our sixth year in Atlanta. It's 11th grade for Grumble who just turned 16 this weekend. It's Life for his brother Jaws who graduated from college last spring and now has a real job, an apartment, and a girlfriend.
It's the sixth anniversary of my successful chemotherapy for non-hodgkin lymphoma, which I began the day I dropped both boys off at their new school for the first time. Grumble was entering 6th grade and Jaws was doing his one glorious senior year at Paideia School. What a way to start out in a new city. But the reality is, I'm 5 years into remission, healthy in every way and the kids are doing great. I'm extremely lucky to have this expensive and eccentric school in my survival toolkit.
It was not a pretty morning. We actually were under a tornado
threat and the rain was driving down pretty hard. Despite
it all, our headmaster Paul Bianchi (Paul B. to the
kids...distinguishing him from Paul H. the high school coordinator and
disciplinarian) was out in his golf cart watching the parade. Paul B.
had polio years ago and walks with a cane, so the golf cart isn't just
a private school amenity, it's a necessity for a guy whose style is to
be everywhere. How Paul B. still manages to climb the stairs and haul
his twisted and spindly body up into our elementary school classrooms
in the attic of an old Tudor Mansion, or down into the orchestra pit of the
theater, is a wonder...but we love him for it.
I kissed Grumble and tried to keep the 11th grade sales pitch light. "Go for it kiddo. The rewards will be great." This is a remarkable school even on a bad day. Indeed, it's a wonderful school even on days when its maddening political correctness and self-conscious informality make me want to scream. (Remind me to post about "Gender Day" and "Race Day" sometime.) But for a boy whose family has radically dissembled and is now reorganizing in the complex ways of divorce and remarriage, I thank God for the good grownups at this nutty school.
11th grade is a crucible. SAT's, driving, drinking, social pecking orders, competition at every turn. Nothing has changed except me. I'm SO not where I was with the other child, in every possible respect. I'm out of the toxic Long Island college quest. I'm out of a marriage that once seemed perfect and now seems like a hazy dream. I'm out of a house I thought I couldn't bear to leave and into a rental I adore. I'm into letting Grumble be the different kind of kid he is. I'm flying solo and trusting my intuition. And as nauseatingly Oprah-ish as this all sounds, it's a long way to travel in six short years.