Maybe it’s the rain. Winter’s end. Full moon. Maybe it’s the fact that, without knowing it, I watched the abrupt, final episode of Medium on Netflix (what the hell, Kelsey Grammar, give us a little warning!) thinking I was settling in for some brain-draining TV. Yes, I know the show ended five years ago, but for me it ended last night. Feeling a bit emotional and shaky today.
Each February for the past seven years, my husband and I go through the stressful financial aid process for the school our boys attend. An excellent bilingual, private school where my boys are thriving and happy. If they weren’t at this French school, they would definitely be in public school. For certain. Putting my children through private school was never high on my list of life’s essentials. However, being married to a Frenchman, living in a bilingual household, the option of sending our boys to this exceptional school was too tantalizing to ignore. So, each year, we white-knuckle-it until we receive the verdict in late spring confirming how much aid we will or won’t receive. The amount fluctuates from year to year, but we live a very simple, frill-free life-style and we make it work.
Why am I writing about something so personal? Firstly, both my husband and I are artists and educators. Not a socio-economic stratum known for reeling in the big bucks. There is no shame in that. Money doesn’t make you a better person and not having a fat bank account doesn’t make us lesser humans. As you have read this far, I will hope you agree.
One extraordinarily wealthy, French, SAHP (stay-at-home-parent) mother at the the French school volleyed the following question to me, “Why should you receive financial assistance to send your children to the school when I have to pay full-price?” Obnoxious, oui! However, it raises a good point. Forget about the notion of diversity (racial, social, economic, professional) for a moment and acknowledge that a private school education is a privilege, not a right. Roger that. My children are so incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to attend this French school (I’m not naming it, but you know which school I’m referencing, n’est ce pas?). Seeing how my boys, now fully bi-lingual, are flourishing and loving school makes it tolerable to endure the scrutiny of the aforementioned parent.
Needless to say, I howled internally when I received an email that went school-wide regarding Career Day. The French school is desperately seeking the following for representation:
We are looking for parents to represent the following professions: Architecture, Movies & Broadcasting, Design, Entrepreneurship, Publishing, Environmental Sustainability, Technology, Advertising and Social Services.
What? Not seeking Hedge Fund Managers and Corporate Attorneys? Nope. I’m betting they have plenty of those, in spades. Thank goodness! Someone needs to pay full-price (not to diss the uber-wealthy “creative” types out there, I know you exist!) and fund those outstanding programs and staff. I’m really not dissing peeps in finance. I do have a lot of beloved friends who have traveled that road. It just so happens that the SAHP’s husband is a big financial advisor at a big French Bank and I guess I am still miffed by her rude comment. Nevertheless, that outreach implies that there is some value in those, typically, less financially lucrative careers. By the way, I noticed they didn’t put Musician on the list. I wonder if Madonna will be turning up for this event.
But this isn’t just an issue at my kids’ school. Not long ago, I was at a birthday party for a very close friend at a local, Harlem Mexican Restaurant. After ordering some margaritas, a kind acquaintance grabbed the check. I offered cash, which he declined, flatly announcing, “If you have to worry about $100, you shouldn’t be living in New York City.” Hmmmm. Well, $100 is an important sum of money to me (how much were those 3 margaritas???) and New York City is my home! What does that mean? Why is it OK to say something like that? Perhaps what he meant to say was, “Gee, New York City must be a difficult place to live for folks who don’t have oodles of disposable income.” Oh, yes. I agree with that.
Cut to my husband who was grocery shopping at Whole Foods and popped into the wine store where he noticed, for several weeks straight, that prices still weren’t listed on a majority of the wines. The staff mumbled about some technical issue, preventing them from printing labels with prices. What seemed clear, however, was that most customers didn’t mind the lack of visible prices. Nobody else was complaining. Apparently, most New Yorkers who shop at Whole Foods Wine Store aren’t really looking at the price when considering which wine to purchase.
Last night the wind lashed the rain against the north-facing windows of our cozy, one-bedroom apartment. Our boys were tucked-in, snug and sleeping in their bunk beds. I sat beside my husband feeling sad that we couldn’t click on an episode of “Medium,” my go-to, crappy day, TV show for the past few years. As we listened to the rain, my husband said, “This is the kind of night that makes you feel fortunate to have a roof over your head.”
Well, said, Frenchman. I am grateful for my full life. My family and friends. For the sturdy, rent-stabilized roof over my head. That reminds me of a pleasant conversation I had with my landlord a few years ago when he lovingly suggested that I “Give up the #!$@! dream and move out of the city or get a real job.” But I digress…
I have so much. Everything I need and more. Starting with the roof over my head. My roof happens to be in New York City where I was born and raised. Where I plan to remain for the foreseeable future. One rent-stabilized year at a time.