I’ve written before in praise of small things that aren’t exactly the cure for cancer, but which make life measurably better. Things like the Canyon Post Office, the new four-wheel-drive rolling bags, or Uber. Sadly, last week brought an end to the most prominent member of that club. Naturally I’m talking about The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
This one is an oldie from way back in September 2010. I barely recognize my tender young self, shuttling a nervous kindergartener off to school and conquering PMS for the first time. Remember the days pre-online registration, when the kids would come home the first day with a thick packet of forms to fill out? With a top-of-the-world senior in the house, the dwindling number of First Days is feeling all too real for me. I’m trying hard not to dwell on the ‘lasts’ too much. I was even sentimental about our final, sweaty walk-through registration. But I’m sure you’ll excuse me if I draw the line on waxing romantically about the emergency forms.
What is it about a new school year? The air crackles with excitement for students and non-students alike. Not-so-deeply buried memories of new crayon boxes, new possibilities, and wondering who you’ll sit with at lunch.
Or maybe not. I saw a friend at Mulberry’s last Wednesday who sends her youngest off to college this year. For her, the week of back-to-school was bittersweet. She’s already seen two kids’ rooms go dark, and she’s about to see the final one fade away. She said she was a little numb about the whole thing, confused about what to do.
For the rest of us, the start of school brings maybe too much to do. Too much to think about. And too many forms to fill out. Danea Adams told me she takes an annual first-day photo with her kids on her front steps. She recently noticed that she looks bleary-eyed and weary in every first-day photo she has, because she doesn’t sleep well the night before. I’m in that club, too.
Last year I was reeling from two kids starting new schools (a kindergartener at Havens-at-Beach & a first time PMS’er) and one climbing aboard the much-anticipated buses. I didn’t sleep well for a week before school started. I thought this year would be better. But I woke up at 2:30am Wednesday morning panicked because I forgot to tell my friend Liz about Piedmont’s first-day etiquette. Luckily, she was put together enough to realize that 1) her husband was required to take the morning off work and 2) she needed a dazzling outfit for the “coffee” that first morning.
I wish someone had told me my first year, when I squandered all my energy on my reluctant kindergartener and slippery toddler, and don’t recall even washing my face. I’m also pretty sure I wore sweatpants.
However challenging your first week turned out to be, it’s good perspective to remember that everyone has a finite number of first days. Some day you’ll be walking past strangely empty bedrooms, wistfully recalling the struggles to get teeth brushed and backpacks loaded. Perhaps then, in a quiet moment, you’ll even be nostalgic for those duplicate registration forms.
When, exactly, did it become mandatory for every female under the age of 25 to purse her lips in a bizarre imitation of an about-to-be-kissed duck in photos? You may think this is a rhetorical question, but it is not. I looked it up. I found that the first Urban Dictionary definition for what was then called “myspace face” but quickly evolved to the site-neutral “duck face” was submitted on May 13, 2006. So this is already a decade-old phenomenon – that’s why it’s so profoundly tiresome. But why exactly do they do this baffling duck face thing? According to one delightful anti-duck face site (there are dozens), the point is to ‘make it look like you’ve got big pouty lips, a super-defined jawline, and model-quality cheekbones.’ Does anyone really believe that happens?
In these lazy, hazy days of summer you’ll have to forgive me, but I’m drawn to recycling what I’ve already written. This is from way back in October 2012. Reading that mind-blowing article about the Twins of Bogota this weekend has me thinking about how much of our identity comes from our genes, how much is imprinted by our environment, and how much will always be an unfathomable mystery.
Hovering in our soda aisle during the PMS early release last week, I overheard one of those classic “out of the mouths of babes” comments. A 6th grader told another 6th grader, “Miranda is smart at all the hard things, but I’m smart at all the easy ones.” Isn’t that the truth? Don’t most things you’re not “smart” at seem hard, and those that come easily seem simple?
Is anyone else curious about those Hampton Creek ads that have been showing up every Sunday in the New York Times? They’re full page announcements with sweeping proclamations like “when you create a path that makes it easy for good people to do good things – they will do it” and they started at the beginning of the summer. Some are addressed to ‘Food Company Executives’, some to ‘CEO’s’ and some just to ‘You.’ Hampton Creek’s CEO, Josh Tetrick, seems to be a man not especially blessed with hubris. The folksy, first-person ads are written directly from Tetrick, and he lists an email address and cell phone number on each one, inviting people to contact him directly with feedback or questions.
The ads refer to the movement being built by Hampton Creek, which self-identifies as the fastest growing food company on earth. But they don’t really explain what Hampton Creek does. Luckily you can look it up. You’ll find that all this talk of revolution stems from a company focused on developing alternatives to animal protein, starting with the humble egg.
Summertime Posts are always full of letters from kids at Camp Augusta; I thought I’d turn the tables with a letter to a kid for a change. Here’s mine to Sadie. She, and all the other Session 2 campers, will return home on July 3rd to a markedly different world than they left on June 20th.
Whoa Nellie, you picked quite a couple of weeks to be off the grid! I don’t know how much those superstar Camp A. counselors fill you in on the happenings of the world while you’re out in the wilderness, but just in case you’re entirely cut off, you should know there’s been a lot going on.
You already knew about the vicious shooting at the church in Charleston – that was right before you left and I know how horrified you were. It has caused lots of terrible repercussions since you’ve been gone – arguments over whether or not the shooter should be called a ‘terrorist’, glimpses into his racist website, and explanations of his despicable doctrine of white supremacy.
We’re laying down the tarp in our driveway to begin the annual ritual of float building. We took a few years off, but this year, for the 50th anniversary of Dick Johnson’s wacky patriotic brainstorm we decided to enter one more time. No matter what your neighborhood, you should, too. You’ll make friends and memories to last a lifetime.
Say what you will about Halloween, Gold Rush weekends, and all those soccer games. I truly believe that years from now, when my kids close their eyes and remember growing up in Piedmont, they’ll picture building our trademark 4th of July Parade floats in our old neighborhood.
Shockingly, though we Mesa-Monte-Park-Pala’ers were obsessed with winning, our floats never got the respect they deserved. We never won Best in Show. Sure, the glorious chicken-wire-state-capitol building was named “most creative”. And we were awarded “best theme” for the little red schoolhouse Chad pulled wearing a graduation gown. Or was that the year he was a horse? I get confused. It doesn’t really matter. It was the journey, not the destination. And the journey was tremendous fun.
Everyone says that columnists are notoriously thin-skinned. Personally, I get lots of comments along the lines of ‘I really like your columns, except for the ones I hate.’ This never bothers me since I assume the hated columns are the quasi-political ones, and I’m not exactly shy about my political leanings. Trigger warning: this is probably going to be one of the columns that many of you hate.
It all stems from an op ed last weekend by Nicholas Kristof that gave me a golden nugget in my quest to differentiate Democrats and Republicans for my kids. Over the years they’ve been subject to plenty of lively family ‘debates’ that have left them wondering ‘what’s the difference?’ They understand where my loyalties lie and they know how strongly their grandparents, uncles and aunts disagree. They know which candidates each side supports. But I’ve never been able to explain the philosophical distinctions well enough to justify all the family drama.
Oakland is en fuego. And I don’t mean just because the Warriors are currently tearing it up on the court and in Riley-fueled press conferences. Or because Sunset Magazine recently announced it’s relocating their iconic Menlo Park campus to Jack London Square. Those are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s almost too much good news to capture.
Piedmont’s own Mr. Ghielmetti is leading the charge for Brooklyn Basin, a 65 acre waterfront development with exciting retail, residential and public park spaces that will reshape the city’s skyline. The old dumpy Safeway on College Avenue has been transformed to the anchor of a hip new shopping center (can you say ‘Cream’?), and the jumbo one on Pleasant Valley is soon to follow. Nevermind First Fridays, all manners of neighborhood festivals and farmer’s markets, and enough cutting-edge restaurants to fill a city 10 times its size. Did I mention the upcoming foodie-bait of Water Street Market (Jack London Square), Newberry Market (the old Sears building in Uptown) and Grand Fare (where the strange Monkey Bar place was on Grand Avenue)?
There’s really no other way to say it: we’re sick of the shoplifting. Mulberry’s employees are tired of assuming every kid is about to snatch a soda. Chad is sick of devoting most of his evenings to parental conferences and come-to-Jesus meetings with kids we catch. And our friends must be sick of listening to us complain. We knew that shoplifting would be an issue when we opened the store. But we thought that as we gained experience and our kids grew up, we’d feel even more of a connection to our pint-sized customers and that infamous Piedmont Upstander ethos would keep things in line.
Instead, we find ourselves engaged in disheartening, depressingly familiar confrontations with kids who we’ve known since they were in preschool. Kids who we’ve coached or driven on field trips. Kids whose siblings play on teams with our own children, kids our kids have babysat, kids whose parents we adore.