New rules. The only way I'm getting a post up here going forward is with a 30 minute timer. Today, 32 minutes just to get out these first three sentences. Go.
All towns are like middle school and that's the truth. Go ahead and make me wrong. Add social media to the mix and you've got middle school in a fish bowl. This town is middle school with a shit load of money. Does that make it worse or does that just make us think it's about the money? I don't think it makes it worse; I think it's the same everywhere and back to the dawn of time. I think it's just who we are and the money just moves the decimal points.
Point to note (my own hypocrisy): In September of 2005 Over one million dollars was spent renovating the high school auditorium. I was astonished. There wasn't enough left over to replace the forty year old theater seats which I thought were quite comfy. There was a drive to raise the 300k required to replace them. Fine, OK, that's your prerogative if you want to contribute BUT the choir master stood on that stage after my daughter's performance and shamed the audience. 'If your child performs here and you have not yet contributed..'
You son of a bitch. Lucia was mortified that I hadn't written a check. In the end I wrote a check. I was angry.
Fast forward. $21,500 is cut from the school budget in January. Let's be fair. Money is cut everywhere but it's the $21,500 we feel because out of the blue we aren't going to have our tent for graduation and we have nothing to say about it. The student body, or at least enough of it, is in an uproar. One student starts a petition and another writes on the group Facebook wall: Quick, let's take it to the moms! And take it to the moms they did.
I expected the moms to fix it the same way they fixed it when I asked if reading Shakespeare by Sparknotes was acceptable in a school of our caliber. That isn't what happened. What happened was close to war. I was and I remain astonished. In this town that amount of money is negligible. It didn't take long for the town to accept that the money was cut, the voices simply asked for the right to raise the money and pay for the tent.
There were several offers of several thousand dollars a piece.
No discussion, just, no.
I probably wrote more words about that tent then I have on any other subject. I have strong feelings about that tent. I watched my eighth grader finish her very harsh first year under that tent, the tent the eighth graders use for their moving up ceremony the day before graduation. They piggy back off the graduation cost and they always have. I think it's a reasonable deal. She stood on that platform and when the speaker asked the annual question: how many of you have been here since kindergarten? and maybe 75% of the hands went up, I looked at my five year old, just finishing her first year and thought, if it takes everything I have, my last child will spend her life here. She will get to this tent and she will raise her had and she will get to this tent the second and final time and my last baby will walk on the grass, under the sun (or the rain) and walk back out again having spent thirteen years with the same 200 children (plus or minus the transfers in and out).
The tent is a symbol, a tradition in a town that has precious little to offer past the school.
We sit isolated in our homes with our two acre minimum zoning in the forest and the wetlands and when I walk through my neighborhood I know almost no one despite having invited 75 families two years running to a block party. No one comes. There is only the school.
So the tent, for the love of God, why can we not just raise the money and put up the damn tent?
We gave up.
In the end a woman posted a poignant plea on the graduating class page and it was removed by the house mother who has been the house mother since kindergarten. Why, Martha? Why did you delete that? Why was asking us to do something about the tent inappropriate? I have no idea. Laurel posted again. I felt badly. I wrote a response to Laurel. I could have sent it in a private message but I didn't. I did it publicly because I felt that if I was going to show support for Laurel I might as well show it publicly.
Dear @Laurel, I hope you read this before @Martha takes it down again. I'm writing to tell you that you aren't alone. I'm writing to tell you because you very clearly state that you feel alone and I don't want you to feel that way. I have written more words on this subject then any other on these town sites and so I will write them for you one more time.
I wrote them one more time. About a thousand of them describing everything they meant to me, including my feelings about the theater seats.
On Thursday about twenty of us received an email from Miranda, another house mother but not THE house mother, telling us to send letters to Mr. MacReady, the superintendent, just one more time. I got ready to do this but didn't get it done on Thursday.
On Friday we received a letter from the high school principal. Linda said, OK, fine. You have until Thursday to raise the entire cost in a gofundme site. The link will be sent later this afternoon. It all has to come through the site because it has to be given to the school in a single certified bank check.
I went to the site to give them money. I thought, OK, 210 students means $100 per student and we can only count on half the student population so I have to pay for 2.5 students so I'll do that. And I did. I was not the first donor. I was the second. The first donor paid for five students. Elizabeth and I have no idea who he is.
I think it was maybe the sixth donor who threw out $1000. There were a couple of anonymous donors. I figured that might be Mr MacReady and Linda. They were $500 and $250 respectively. The next afternoon Elizabeth's dad threw in another $150, bringing her total contribution up to $400.
So here's what happened and what often does in fund raisers like this. The first fifty percent were raised in the first 20 hours. In the next 20 hours another 13% were raised. It's law of diminishing returns. The way these things work is you get a steady trickle down until the eleventh hour and then you get the hockey stick effect or you do not. I'm hoping those loud voices show up because we won't make it otherwise.
And honestly, I'm OK with that. Having another week or two or three wouldn't have made any difference. People or either willing to pay for it or they aren't.
But here's the thing, the moral outrage is what astonishes me. People are literally screaming about the waste. One graduating senior wrote on the town site about how the money should go to a Sloan-Kettering fund that would REALLY make a difference. 'If you want to spend your money that way, do so in a way that will make a difference.
This is how I see it. There is a difference between collecting money for an event and raising money for a cause. Money is being collected for an event by parents who want the event to occur. Money is also in the budget for caps and gowns which aren't reused every year (why?1) and end up in the garbage. Money is in the budget for field trips and Mystery Night (they put the entire class on busses and keep them out all night in a final night of bonding and also to keep them off the streets, I think it's pretty cool). Money is spent on all sorts of things and events which are not reusable or particularly necessary and we don't blink.
But the tent? We are outraged that between 75 and 100 people would choose to spend between $20 and $1000 erecting this thing to avoid separating families by stuffing the graduation into a gym. Traditionally, by holding graduation on the lawn, every family member of the graduating class has been able to attend. The elderly and infirm, if arriving early can obtain a seat, anyone arriving later or the overflow, stand at the edges. If it's raining and you're at the edges, you stand under your own umbrella. Your graduates vanish moments after they leave the tent regardless.
I don't know if the tent will be there or not. I do note that the middle school parents are not contributing but there is murmuring about maybe, just maybe there might be one more year to move up under the tent.
Have we shamed people out of contributing? I can't quite figure that out. People are funny.
The posting though, it's the wild west out there at the moment.
These three photographs were taken from our local paper online back in 2013. In the photograph of the sea of parents, front and center, a pair who had several girls. One graduated with Lucia, one clearly graduated in 2013 and one will be graduating in 2018 with Elizabeth. I don't think I've seen their name on the donor list but lord knows a chunk of the fund would be a sneeze.
You know, I almost made it. I think I'm over by about four minutes. No proofing. :)