Thursday, August 13, 2009

Intro to Friendship

The kids started new schools this week - two at Richland Elementary and one at White Station Middle - and even though it's not me starting school, I still get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about them walking into a new classroom for the first time (and then the second time, the third ... fourth ... ).

I tend to project a lot of my anxieties on my children. Inwardly, of course, I try not to let them see that I worry for them, that I dread these first days and weeks as much as they might. I see each of my kids' strengths and weaknesses and install them into my own little scenarios of what their days must be like. It's a hobby, it helps pass the time.

In my list of concerns, my fears and worries for these kids, though, the one that was at the bottom, so far down that I didn't even realize it was there, has rocketed to the top.

On Monday, I walked up the street to school to meet the kids after school, and when JP and S came running out I asked if they had a good day, which they had, and then asked if they made any friends. They both rattled off a list of names of the classmates they'd met and, in the baptism of the first day of school, declared "friends." Great!

C came trudging across the field and through the woods (literally, you'd have to see the campus) and I asked how his day was. "Good," he said, and I asked if he met any friends. "No," he said. I asked if he talked with anyone at lunch. "Not really," he said.

Now, it was the first day of school and overwhelming with the new experiences of middle school and switching from class to class throughout the day, so it wasn't such a big deal. I've asked him the same questions every day since then, though, and received the same answers. I know it's all still new and that a lot is going to change over the next few weeks, but I'm just surprised. C has never had any problem talking to people or making friends, he's like his mother that way, but now I find myself thinking what if he doesn't make any friends?, and I didn't expect to ever be thinking that about C.

He will make friends, of course he will. He's intelligent and funny and has an easy way about him. The problem, I think, is that he has to do it. I can't help him. I'm there for him if he needs help with an English assignment or math or history or whatever, but the social aspect of school, making strangers into friends, is completely up to him.

There's that pit in my stomach again.

In other news, I have a story in The Commercial Appeal today about Memphians who were at Woodstock. The story is in anticipation of the concert's 40th anniversary this weekend. I spent a lot of time on it and I think it turned out pretty well, but I would like to copy and paste here, for posterity's sake, the two-paragraph lede that I was asked to rewrite. The reason for rewriting makes sense - my editor wanted to get to the local aspect of the story before the jump so readers didn't think it was just another Woodstock story, like the one they ran on Monday of this week. I get that.

Anyway, here it is:

I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm
I’m going to join in a rock-n-roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try and get my soul free

-- From the song “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell

It was in the summer of 1969, the same summer that gave us the Son of Sam, the Stonewall riots of Greenwich Village in New York, and the Manson family’s murderous rampage, that four visionary promoters planned for 50,000 music enthusiasts to attend a three-day outdoor music and arts festival in upstate New York on Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm.

What The Woodstock Music and Art Fair became, famously, was a counterculture nation of half a million strong, a four-day experiment in love, peace and openness that was the antithesis of the violence consuming us here at home and abroad in Vietnam. With a population of people from far and wide who imbibed, swam, danced, loved and left with enough memories to last a lifetime, Bethel, NY, and its festival have become icons of utopian dreams realized.

In other other news, tomorrow is my birthday. I will be 39, which is not 40. Yet.