The Parent Imperfect is looking out of a fourth floor window in the Desmond Tutu Center in Lower Manhattan. He is here to work for just a single day. The difference between this place (once a guest house of the Episcopal Church, now a hotel run by Aramark) and the UU Guest House where he and family stayed on the East Side says a lot about the difference between the Episcopalians and the UUs. The sign here says, “Late Check Out Available at Additional Cost.” The place looks and feels like a real hotel…sort of. There is a reason that the Open Society Institute has its meetings here.
The PI, Liz and the kids were to have gone to a ski lodge in Western Mass this past weekend. That was before the threat of winter monsoon caused the ski area to close for the weekend. Knowing that there would be no skiing, the six parents involved with this trip could see the dangers of being stuck inside a rustic lodge for two days with five children/teenagers. One parent bowed out with a high fever, and the rest quickly caved. Maybe that means that they can get a ‘raincheck” for another weekend next year.
So, although the PI and family really need to get out of Boston to do something fun, they spent one more weekend in the city. What should have been two days without plans quickly filled up. Ms. Connie went to a friend’s house for a trip to the Museum of Science and a sleepover. Mr. Vince had Friday night soccer, which gave the weary parents the opportunity to place a game of….cribbage.
From there, the weekend spiraled out of control, but it did have a highlight. That highlight was a St. Patrick’s Day “Poetry and Stout” party. While he swore off St. Patrick’s Day celebrations two decades ago, the PI was strangely drawn to this one, which advertised “the world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade.” To the PI’s surprise, the rest of the family was also open to the idea. It helped that the invitation also talked about “Children’s Hour” and the hosts happened to be the parents of a schoolmate and soccer teammate of Vince.
The PI was a little nervous when he walked in with Connie (too early) and saw a spare refrigerator rigged up to house kegs of Guiness and Harp. This reminded him too much of the horrible parties at the hunting camp in Woodford, all those many years ago. But Yale Terrace is not Woodford Hollow and the party was the best thing that the little family has done together in some time. It did, indeed, open with an extremely short parade featuring many children led by an accordion-playing uncle. After the opening parade, the entertainment shifted to a mesmerizing combination of fine music and inspired poetry from anyone who could stand and deliver. Many, of all ages, did just that.
And, of course, there was discussion of Advanced Work Classes. It turns out that the fourth grader among the hosts has just begun studying in advanced work at one of the choices that the PI is investigating for Connie. After having a very supportive school environment through 3rd grade, the transition to AWC’s high expectations has not been easy. That did not, however, lead her mother to discourage the PI from giving it a try with Connie. Earlier that weekend, Connie and the PI also found out that one of Connie’s classmates that they thought would be leaving for AWC somewhere is going to be staying at the Hernández. The plot thickens as the deadline approaches and the PI and Liz seem to be studiously avoiding the discussion.
Back at the party, Vince disappeared immediately under the eaves of the house, where teenagers much too cool to engage in music and poetry gathered to conspire. He loved it. At one point, the dog’s need for a walk served as the perfect excuse for a probably ill-advised evening sortie by five seventh-graders through Forest Hills Cemetery. His mother let him do it.
While big brother wandered, Connie was glued to the proceedings. Her choice of bright green as the color for her new, shorter cast on the broken arm made it the perfect party accessory. Always ready to perform, she recited from memory a short poem called “Autumn” that she had written back then. Later in the evening, a professional Irish step-dancer cleared a spot in front of the musicians and did his thing, wonderfully. After finishing, he looked for a little girl who was taking step-dancing lessons. Finding no takers right in front of him, he turned toward where Connie was on Liz’s lap. While this is one lesson Connie had not taken, she couldn’t resist (or didn’t even try to). To the surprise of a wincing PI, within 30 seconds she was dancing as if she knew just what she was doing. This was one time when he should have had the damn video camera…
The music was still going strong when they left just after 11PM. If it hadn’t been the night to turn the clocks ahead, they’d have stayed later, without protest from anyone. Before you know it, these children will know what it means to be part Irish.