Friday, March 24, 2006


One of the many things that really works for me about Ross’ school is the system of getting the kids from school. Those kids who are not eligible for the school bus get picked up by parents. The majority of the kids do go on the bus so there is not a high volume of moms in their cars. Those that are, wait in line, in the car and drive up to the door where there are several teachers and older students who escort each kid to their moms in their cars. This is especially good for me as I am spared the challenge of negotiating snow and ice on the ground by not having to get out of my car.

Very often I sit and watch the moms who all know each other well. They wave and greet each other. Some of them get out of their own cars and join friends in their cars until it is time for the kids to come out.

There have been many days when I have thought to myself that I wonder if I will always be the new mom on the block by virtue of the fact that we are not Americans. This combined with the fact that Ross only joined the school toward the end of second grade keep us feeling new at the school.

In my mind I play out the different scenario of Moms driving past me and waving frantically at the joy of seeing me again, then getting out their cars and coming to me shouting, “Howzit – I’m coming to your car now!” I imagine and quite honestly, long for what would have been my equivalent South African experience of this very routine scenario. As basic as it is, it has a profound way of making one feel part of, or distant from the whole.

On Wednesday, I went to get Ross having forgotten that one of his after school activities was starting that day. I saw the lady from the front office approaching my car so I rolled down the window on the passenger side. It was cold and windy so she opened the door and said, “Mind if I jump in?” No sooner had she said it and she was in the car and I rolled the window back up. I really like Anne so I very much enjoyed the visit and chat which lasted no more than 5 minutes. I turned on the cd of the book I am listening to and got comfortable for what would be the 40 minute wait for Ross.

The next thing, I see another teacher walking toward me and realize she is actually coming to talk to me. Again, I roll down the passenger window and she leans into the car and says, “Oh sorry, I thought you were someone else. I have a meeting with a parent and she drives the same car as you. I thought it was her.”

“No problem.” I say.

“Who is your kid?” she asks.

“Ross, in the third grade.”

“Well I teach in the middle school so hopefully I will get to know more of you soon.”

“That will be lovely,” I say, “I look forward to that.” She leaves.

There was a lot of activity at the school even though it was well past dismissal time as it was the week of their Book Fair. I saw one of the Moms from Ross’ class coming out of the building and while she didn’t stop to talk to me, she waved and shouted the equivalent of a “Howzit” in the form of, “Hi Dawn, how you doing?”

In the few minutes that passed until Ross came out the building, I realized that I had just experienced the scenario I had been dreaming of while waiting in the car pool line over the last few months.

Why then, was there a knot in my stomach and why was I feeling a sense of frustration more than elation?

Perhaps it was because on this particular day I had no other appointments due to my workload at home. I knew I would drive up to school both in the morning and afternoon, and spend no more than the usual 5 – 10 minutes dropping Ross off and picking him up. No-one ever comes to the car so I felt it was safe to spend the day pretty much in sweat pants and my NOT TO BE WORN IN PUBLIC, EVER, NO MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCES sweatshirt. I had no makeup on; I was in a state that I call ‘not fit for human consumption’.

I couldn’t believe that on this day, of all days, I had to have my dream come true. I would like to think that everyone who interacted with me walked away thinking, “You know, she is such a cool person, I really need to spend more time with her,” rather than what they would have been fully entitled to think, “Holy crap, doesn’t that foreigner know how to get dressed in the morning? Doesn’t she know that’s not how we do things here? Perhaps it’s different in Africa or Holland or England!”

Always show the you in you that makes you the you that you are.
- Chidinma Obietikponah

(For the benefit of my South African readers particularly - In "Americanese" we get our children from school and our dog fetches the ball in the park.)

pic – thanks