Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Stardom Week - Part 5

This is Part Five of a Nine Part Series

All Wednesday I was a bunch of twisted nerves. Thankfully two important meetings got cancelled. I was not prepared for either and thanked God for getting me off the hook. The note had been sent to Mrs. H and now I had to wait on her response. Time flows with a dreamlike slowness when you are waiting for a denouement that you fear may be unpleasant. I thought about her reaction to my note and what her response might be. If only there was any way I could fast forward to the time I was at home in the evening with J and know that answer right now.

In the meanwhile, my friends had tapped into their individual networks to help me formulate my strategy as far as meeting with the teacher. They had given me ideas on opening lines, meeting agenda and closing notes. It ranged all the way from bitter, caustic and sarcastic to completely cold, professional and business like. There was a lot overwrought, hyper-anxious, over-protective mother between the two extremes. I felt grateful for these people who had come into my life within the last four or five years and now formed the warm, comforting envelope of friendship and support I needed to raise a child alone in a foreign country.

Some were immigrants like me even if not nearly as new. Others were able to trace their roots back to the Mayflower. Their families had heard my story and were rooting for me like people generally root for the victim and the underdog. In a way this whole episode was like a mirror being held up to middle America and the red state stereotype.

K, a white co-worker who grew up in New York said "This is clearly a case of a redneck teacher person who needs to be taught a lesson. When I told my husband his jaw dropped to the floor. My mom could not believe this stuff happens in this day and age." There was a lot of guilt, angst and anger in how the reflection was being viewed depending on the vantage point of the viewer. In the last three days I had been reminded that I lived in a place so backward that I should have seen this coming sooner than later. The same people were quick to point out that living in a bigger city was no guarantee that racism would not exist. It might afford me the strength that comes from numbers - it would not be one J against all of them.

Wednesday was the day J was supposed to share her favorite book with her class. As with the toy she had struggled to find the happy medium between a very Christmassy crowd pleaser and her "real" favorite book which currently happens to an illustrated Life of The Buddha. After much deliberation she picked a book that she had actually enjoyed a lot a year ago - Strega Nona. I knew better than to ask why The Buddha book would not be going to school.

For a month now, I have been bellyaching to my boss about one of our vendors and how they need to meet with our team in person so we can reach a common understanding of what ails our interface with them. My wish was granted on Wednesday.Their team had come to town from Chicago. I had K run my meeting because I was too disoriented to do so myself.

At around 2:30, while telling their "VP of Operations" that we preferred to identify all their system and process gaps at our end and drive the time lines for fixing them, my mind had started to wander dangerously. I was thinking how little people in little companies were given grandiose epithets to compensate for all manner of littleness and how by extension Mrs H could call herself COO of Kindergarten Room 3 - maybe she thought of herself in those terms. I was glad my boss had a conflict and could not be here for this meeting because he would have noticed how distracted I was. I don't recall any other time when I had been so distracted at work and all this over a kindergarten project.

Glancing at my watch, I knew J would be back home now and I wanted desperately to talk with her. In the background over the chaos in my head, I could hear the VP voice his many concerns about the approach I was suggesting but thankfully K and others in the room backed me strongly having gone through much greater pain for far longer than I have. He caved in by 3:00 and I could get out of the conference room to make the call home. The sound of "Yes, Mommy ?" when J answered the phone filled me with a rush of cold fear.

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