This morning, we woke up late.
Something about a cool morning and warm covers is too delightful to disturb with concerns like, oh, school or work. When I finally forced myself to look at the clock it was 7:40. I stretched out of bed. I padded into my girls' room where my 4-year-old was buried under her covers and accused me of interupting her dream when I said it was time to get up. My second grader was awake, on top of her covers, reading a Roald Dahl book.
The mad rush was on. Showers. Toothbrushing. Breakfast. The hunt for shoes. Out the door. Back in for backpacks. The wind brought a cry from my second grader, who buried herself into my side. We weren't as late as we thought we'd be.
This morning was the final Parents as Learning Partners meeting of the year. Today, we were poetry partners. We stopped in the pre-k classroom to drop off a backpack and hopped up to the third floor where Mrs. Bruno had a writing project ready for us. Our second graders would write poems about themselves by choosing various objects in their lives that described them. "I am my favorite food, the quiet spot I go to think, a holey sweater, a baby blanket, popcorn, my iPod, iCarly..."
Parents folded themselves into pint sized chairs and put their faces close to their children's. Kids sprawled on the carpet with Mrs. Bruno, who led them through a series of questions about themselves. My 4-year-old hopped around the room, hugging her sister's classmates.
This evening, many of us will be back at the school for the annual block party. We'll feed our children hot dogs and help them with cookie decorating and craft projects. We'll shell out for tickets and panic if, for a second, our beloved little ones are lost in the crowd.
Providence is a funny word. It hangs over us when we make future predictions. It means, literally, to see ahead. To provide, at its root, is to take precautions against future uncertainties. We know a lot about the future, and it isn't at all murky. We know, for instance, that history books one day will remember Barack Obama as our first African American president, who was elected in 2008. We know that in the school budget fight, the city council is on our side, but the mayor has dug in his heels. We know that there are enough kindergarteners to fill six classrooms next year, and that the block party will be too loud and a little chaotic, but a lot of fun, all things considered.
It's what we don't know that hangs over the evening and the rest of the month. What will the school's budget be? Which teachers will decide to move on, to move away, to retire, to find work elsewhere? How do potential layoffs change the mission and the vision of our school, and the experience our children have there? What young, bright, gifted would-be teachers are deciding right now that teaching is a crap shoot and the pay is too low to go into a profession without job security? Where will the money come from to pay teaching assistants and how will we raise money to pay for everything else, too, just to keep things stable, not even, really, to add new programs or better services? When will the ?
The PTA has to vote on its budget before the city council is forced to pass the city budget, before the school gets its budget, before we know whether teachers will be laid off, before we know how much the school's budget will be cut and what our real needs will be next year. We have to see ahead a bit, or at least try. We have to anticipate future needs in the face of uncertainty, and then we have to put a dollar value on those needs. It's an onerous job, a horrible responsibility. As a result -- at least partly as a result, anyway -- has nobody willing to run for PTA president for next year. There's a vacuum at the top. Oy. Vey.
And the whole year is hanging over us, too, like the fog that remains after a bad night's sleep. Sudden deaths, , the big , the playground fire. If one could see ahead, just a little, these things could have been avoided, I think. But, alas, this is the human condition.
Just as the school year ends, after the PTA has to approve its budget for next year, after elections and potentially after the city passes its budget, come what may, or proceed to trial. If she takes the plea, she'll be required to deliver a check for $41,000 to the PS 29 PTA -- half of the amount she must return in order to avoid jail. If, when she was moved to write the first fraudulent check to herself, she could have pictured this outcome, she perhaps would have made a different choice. In fact, she must have imagined the possibility of this outcome, because she tried to cover it up.
I've thought a lot about Providence, about her provident name, about her pretty little daughter, about the spa where she employs people, about the wreck of relationships that surround her. I so wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. Like Providence, I own a business. My business is seasonal -- kind of crazy from May to October, and then more manageable from November to April -- much like I imagine a spa. My business is licensed, and we've undergone regular safety and compliance audits, as I imagine is the case with a spa. I have to pay taxes and insurance, workers comp and disability, unemployment insurance and payroll taxes. I have to wear a lot of hats at work. The ebb and flow occasionally makes me want to quit, but I love my business, the people I've come to know as a result and the window it gives me into people's lives and loves and stress and sentiments. I have had tax payments due that were quite a bit larger than I expected, and I've fretted as a result, pulled my hair (metaphorically, anyway), wracked my brain, cancelled cable, taken hand-me-downs for my kids and taken my lunch from home. I've never been in charge of anyone else's money, but I could imagine, with the economic downturn, how tempting it might be to just borrow a little to make up a short fall, to convince oneself that one would pay it back when business picked up, or whatever. That is the story I wished was true. But one does not borrow $100,000. Or, if one is forced to borrow, it is from a bank or a parent, with permission, and a payment agreement in place before the check is written. I do not know what Providence will do. I think of her pretty little daughter, her employees, her husband, the black ruins of close relationships that have been irrepiarably damaged, like the playground in the corner of our school yard. But relationships can't simply be torn out and replaced.
The silver lining on this horrible situation is that now, as a result of Providence's improvident crime, PS 29 has the best organized and most transparent PTA in the whole city. Our budget has been redesigned to be easy to read, easy to track and easy to account for. When families donate money now, they can see exactly where the money goes. Systems and oversight are in place that should make us more confident than ever when we give money to the school. And the school needs our money now more than ever before.
This morning, I woke up slowly because sleeping was delightful. Some mornings, because of long days and stress and too little sleep and fitful dreams, I sit up in bed and have to shake off the fog as best I can and struggle through the morning routine and into my day. We are almost there. The end of this year is in sight. There are more questions than answers, but the answers will come. And to provide for ourselves, our children, our neighborhood, our teachers, our community, for the very fabric of our lives -- we must take precautions against the uncertainty of the future.
That is why tonight I will give my girls free reign at the block party to buy as many tickets as they want, to eat three hot dogs, to bid in the art auction. And Monday, when we are recovered, I'll write a check to the PTA's annual appeal. And then I'll write a check from my company to match it.