I was alone in the apartment, reading an article my mother sent me from my home town newspaper about the eighth grade graduation celebration of the only student attending Salmon Prairie School this year in Condon, Montana. The sound of the phone ringing broke me out my reverie. I was in the middle of imagining the daily walk of the single teacher and only student beneath the pine trees next to the Swan River at the foot of the Mission Mountain Range. They walk together every day, stopping now and then to collect plants for science experiments or sit down to read or take out their watercolors to paint what they see. In the winter they use snowshoes.
The rapid-fire voice on the other end of phone was a representative of the Brooklyn middle school I had called about visiting because my 9-year-old thinks she wants to go there. The mothers-who-know on the playground advise visiting the schools in the spring of your child’s 4th grade year so that in the fall of the 5th grade year you will be in the position to allow your child to visit and apply to only those schools that you, as a parent, are willing to let her attend—taking into consideration, not only the teachers, student body and academic focus of the school, but also the length of the daily commute by public transportation and wether or not the students are allowed to leave the school property to wander the neighborhood bodegas and fast food emporiums at lunch time.
The woman on the other end of the phone introduced herself and launched into an explanation of how the tours were only in September, October and November and she didn’t know why they were still listed where ever I had seen them and the guidance counselor at my daughter’s elementary school would post that information for the parents next fall, good-bye.
The contrast was so startling. I don’t even have the energy for my usual rant about how the middle school choice process in New York City is so ridiculous it boarders on cruelty.