Friday, June 30, 2006

What I Learned Today at Disneyland

1. There's really no point in trying to do *anything* between 12 and 4 PM. Best just to take cover and drink cold things.

2. The moment that you and your child declare, after waiting in line for an hour because there was something wrong with the boats, and after the church youth group ahead of you has all limped away in their matching red T-shirts, that you are done, finished, giving up on this stupid ride, is the moment that the line will start moving again.

3. However, after all that waiting, Pirates of the Caribbean is really not a good ride for a sensitive almost-6-year-old, however much she insists ahead of time that she won't be scared.

4. Nonetheless, it is very nicely air-conditioned. Which is helpful when you spend the entire ride with a child's head wedged into your armpit.

5. Bring water. Lots and lots of water. Or at least an empty water bottle.

6. And you know those little twirly electric fan things, with the spritzy water bottles attached? You probably have one, left in the van or the basement somewhere? Yeah, well, make sure to bring it with you. Because the Disney ones cost $16.00.

7. The King Arthur Carrousel almost never has a line, and it's a sure kid-pleaser. Likewise the Mark Twin Riverboat.

8. The lines at It's a Small World are not as long as they look.

8a. and yes, Small World is pretty reprehensible and trivializing. But! It's air-conditioned! (And honestly, once you get started worrying about that kind of thing you might as well not even go to the Mouse in the first place. Which is a totally honorable choice, more honorable than going, I think, this is all completely irrational, I'm not even sure how this happens but we all seem to love the place in spite of ourselves.)

9. However, the line at Dumbo is actually longer than it looks, and parts of it don't have any shade. In fact, there's no point in actually considering Dumbo until evening, preferably during the parade when everyone drains out of Fantasyland and the lines are practially clear.

10. (this is a really hot tip, I learned it from an enthusiastic "cast member") If you have yearned for years to go on the Peter Pan ride, remembering the transcendent moment of flying from when you went when you were 9, but have given up because the lines are always so long, day and night, here's what to do: position yourself right next to the "Mr. Toad" sign during the fireworks, while the ride is closed. When it opens up again after the fireworks, that sign is where they start the line, and you'll be right in front. (I didn't actually get to use this tip because I'd promised MG that she would finally get to buy the stuff she'd chosen after the fireworks and she was not waiting one more minute. But I'll be sure to remember it for next time.)

11. After you've spent hours waiting in lines in the blazing sun and you can feel your brain sloshing meltingly around inside your skull, and your daughter, who has put up almost uncomplainingly with several disappointments and a few scares (that pirate ride!) as well as the heat, asks for a pink Disney Princess mouse ear cap with a tiara and veil, you will throw decades of feminist political convictions blithely to the (nonexistent) wind (God, if only there had been even a breeze) (plus, see earlier parethetical caveat about Political Convictions and Disneyland, Incompatability Of) and buy it for her then and there.

12. A almost-six-year-old can infect her adoring almost-two-year-old cousin with Princess Fever simply by wearing the aforementioned hat, much to the dismay of the cousin's parents. Even if said cousin has never shown any signs of the disorder before in her life or during the entire previous 12 hours spent in Princess Heaven. Oh, well.

p.s. I turned forty yesterday! It was a wonderful day at the beach all by myself. About which more later, maybe.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Pride goeth before...

At work again. This is the first Gay [Queer/GLBT/etc.] Pride weekend since I first came out that I'm not going to a march (except for 2001, when we were in France. FRANCE! France is a pretty much valid excuse for anything). It feels wrong. RW and MG are going, and they'll take pictures, and there are good reasons that I'm here in my partially-dismantled library. But it's like Yom Kippur for me-- the high holy day of queerness. I'd feel weird and off if I didn't fast on Yom Kippur, and I feel weird and off being at work today.

So, in honor of the day, here's a brief restrospective of the last 20 years of elswhere Booland's Pride Weekends:

1987--I was 21 and just barely out and thrilled to be in London, where it was called "Gay Freedom Day." Marching in the Dyke March on Saturday in the pouring rain, with a bunch of lesbians singing "She'll be coming with a woman when she comes (yee-hah!)". When the S/M and anti-S/M folks started yelling at each other, I took the Tube home to wring out my clothes. The next day was sunny and bright and I marched with the Waltham Forest Lesbians (I still have my "Out in the Forest" button), sat with the joyous thousands at the rally in the park and heard some pop star sing "Glad to be Gay."

1988--Post-college doldrums interrupted by my first New York City Pride. What I remember most clearly: the gathering crowds of queers on the subway, stop by stop heading downtown from 110th Street where I got on. Including two extremely ordinary suburban-looking mom types, wearing matching T-shirts that pictured two Statues of Liberty holding hands. It was my first intimation that lesbians could be as boring and momly as anyone else. Prophetic, as it turns out.

1989--Second NYC Pride, with my friends. Throngs and throngs of people marching from Central Park to the oversaturated tiny streets of Greenwich Village. It was a kind of farewell/birthday party: Nora and I were about to leave for Alaska, and I was about to turn 23. I saw Sarah Schulman and waved to her shyly.

1990--Just moved to Seattle, I took the train down to San Francisco to spend Pride with Rosie Bonner. We went to get her hair cut, and her straight haircutter said she'd be seeing her at Pride. Wow! It was something straight people went to too! Everybody celebrated! The SF community was just starting to pull itself together after the hard hit of AIDS, and there was a kind of tentative joy in the air. Rosie and I did our bit by lustily singing from our own personal collection of "Reclaimption songs," pop songs that can be interpreted as queer anthems: "Wouldn't It be Nice," "Ticket to Ride," and my favorite, a Billy Joel number that starts "Come out Virginia, don't make me wait..." When we got to the chorus of that one and bellowed "Only the good die young!" a bunch of guys started glaring at us. Oops. Sorry, guys. If it helps any, I still cringe at the memory.

1991-2005: The Seattle Years. Seattle Pride is sweet and homegrown, but in truth it's not the most dynamic of celebrations, and it's hard to remember something specific from each year. I marched with the bookstore collective for a few years in the '90's (Our chant-- "Left! Left! Left, Left, Left!"--was witty but tiring, as it required a hop every five or six steps).

In 1992 or 1993, my best friend and I put together a contingent of "Dykes Who Like Show Tunes" ("Why Should Gay Men Have All the Fun?") and sang "I Feel Pretty" all the way up Broadway to the laughter and cheers of the crowds.

In 2000, RW rode on the back of a friend's motorcycle in Dykes on Bikes, her 8 months' pregnant belly bared and painted in a rainbow swirl.

Starting in 2002, we've dragged MG over to the clogged Capitol Hill streets every year to march with the queer parents. The first year, she showed her world-eary sophistication by falling asleep in her stroller on the parade route. Ever since, the "Rainbow Parade" has been a much-anticipated highlight of summer, mainly because of the prospect of swag and CANDY thrown from the floats.

A couple years ago we went to Pride Shabbat at the reform synagogue, and MG learned Israeli folk dances!

So, it's been fun. It's been real. It's been twenty years.

UPDATE: I'm home now, and so are The Family. RW reports lots of corporateness and and crabbiness and sweatiness. MG reports lots of CANDY. And balloons. And I don't feel as bad about missing it as I did earlier. Maybe Pride has jumped the shark?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Another maudlin post, sorry,

even though I said I would be too crazybusy to write any like this for a while, apparently I'm not.

It was the last day for the kids at my school today. In fact, I'm still there. Here, I mean. At work.

There's lots of construction going on over the summer, and most of the teachers have to totally pack up their classrooms by Monday. So lots of the rooms are halfway stripped already-- the bulletin boards taken down, the bookcases packed into boxes, the desks moved to the gym. One teacher I talked to was really upset; she didn't like the kids to see the classroom like that. She likes them to feel like it's always the way it is when it's their school-year home: warm, cheery, welcoming.

"School is theater," I mused out loud. "And the classrooms are the sets." And it is: it's theater. All of us teachers put on our costumes--our jumpers and sensible pants suits--and we construct the sets, and write the script, and learn our lines, and then we welcome the audience in. Sometimes, when I see a class heading for the library door, if I'm not feeling especially energetic, I do jazz hands around my face and say, to whoever's around or just to myself, "It's showtime, folks!" Just like Bob Fosse in "All That Jazz."

It's more than theater, of course. Or, it's the best kind of theater, the kind where everyone becomes part of it, everyone is changed, the actors find new meanings in lines they thought they knew by heart, the audience jumps up like in Rocky Horror and makes it their own.

And then, when the audience has gone home and the run is over for the year, there's a cast party.

This year, a lot of people I love are leaving. And I mean love. I've been here for eight years, and basically I've grown up here. When I started here, RW and I had been living together for a year, and had just had our big ceremony. I had never had a permanent professional library job. I was thirty-one, but I was barely a grownup.

There's been a stable core of the many of same people here for that eight years. Almost all of them are women, mostly married, mostly with kids, almost all straight. The youngest are a little younger than me; the oldest are my parents' age. I've seen staff kids go from elementary school to high-school graduation. There were kids in the kindergarten class this year whose births I remember celebrating at staff parties in the gym. People's parents have died; people have married, and divorced, and married again; people's kids have gotten married; people have become grandparents--a few times, much sooner than they'd thought they would.

I don't have many close friends individually on the staff, but as a group they've seen more of my life, my day-to-day real life, than anyone except Renaissance Woman and Mermaid Girl. In some ways, even more than them. I don't see my old friends so much any more, and it can be hard to talk on the phone in different time zones. When I have a problem-- almost any problem--I take it to the staff room. And the staff room comes through, for me and everyone else, with common sense, humor, and true empathy.

The staff party tonight was kind of like a wake for the people who are leaving; it's like that every year. People stood up and gave speeches in honor of each departing teacher or staff member, and more than one time the speech-giver broke down crying. And these are tough women, who corrall unruly bunches of kids all day for a living.

There were little books on a side table, where we were supposed to write something for the people leaving. Sort of like yearbooks. Over and over, I found myself writing "I've learned so much from you." About teaching, yeah, but also about...everything. Everything I've needed to know about life--about being a parent and a spouse and a grown child and a daughter-in-law and a friend and a person in the world-- I've learned at the staff room table, from the stories people have told and the conversations I've overheard and the rock-solid advice my co-workers have given.

I want to give examples, but so much of what people have shared is so personal, it feels wrong.

And a lot of the people who have done that for me--shared their lives, spilled their guts, listened while I spilled mine--are leaving this year. So, it's hard. This is my village, and the staff room is my village square.

They don't know it, but there's a good chance they'll be writing in a little book for me next year.

I don't know if most workplaces are like this; somehow, I don't think so. I'll have to find my village somewhere else. But where?

Monday, June 19, 2006

One thing after another

Hey, wow, hi! It's Crazy Week over here. The runaway train is heading down the big hill from spring to summer and we're just holding on the best we can.

Mermaid Girl's last day of school is Wednesday, and the last day for kids at my school is Thursday, and my official last day is Friday, and going-in-at-the-last-minute-to-throw-things- in-boxes-and-tear-my-hair-out day is next Monday. So I'm all late days at work corralling volunteers and writing report cards and weeding books and nagging people about overdues and screeching at kids about summer reading programs, and she's all last! this and last! that and huge paper bags full of artwork and mysterious scraps of paper.

Then next Tuesday MG and I get on a plane for Los Angeles, where we will spend a week seeing gobs and gobs of family and maybe I'll get to play some Skeeball at the Santa Monica Pier, my favorite thing just about in the world, and oh yeah while I'm there I'll turn 40!

Then we get back, say hi to Renaissance Woman's mom who will be here visiting, celebrate RW's and my 11th(!) anniversary of being An Item (It was a lovely summer, 1995: she was on the rebound, I was unemployed, my brother got married, romance was in the air...), then a few days later celebrate RW's birthday, and then (this is mid-July by now, in case you've lost track) RW quits her job and doesn't start her new job till August! Woohoo!

There's more after that, it's just a nonstop party by us from now till Labor Day, but honestly I'm so exhausted just from typing all this up that I must stop now.

So if you've gotten used to long, sentimental, elegaic posts chez Booland, you might want to check back in maybe a few weeks at the earliest; it's all exclamation points all the time around here for a while. I'll be lucky if I can pull it together to post with complete sentences.

However, I am working up to a retrospective report on the Inaugural Activity of Crazy Week, which occurred last weekend. (Any guesses? I'll give you a googleable hint: Naked Bicyclists.)

Monday, June 12, 2006

...and on another note entirely,

A whiney note, to be specific, here's RW the other night as we were all about to sit down to a lovely dessert: our choices of any combination of three different flavors of Ben & Jerry's ice cream (it was on sale):

"Elswhere, can you please scoop out the ice cream for us all? It's...well, I'd have to take off the plastic. And scoop out the ice cream. And it's so hard!"

I think this should probably win some kind of prize for the whiniest whine ever.

To be fair, she was very, very tired.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Every Little Thing

I always get sentimental around this time of year. It's those dang kids, looking so old like they do in June. They seem like they're in the next grade already-- the kindergarteners turning into first-graders, the third-graders into fourth-graders, and like that. The set of their faces seems different, they're taller. They ask me for chapter books and I wonder: when did they learn to read? I've been at my job so long that I've known most of them since they were in kindergarten, so it's kind of freaky to see them turning into these weird older versions of themselves.

I once worked with a teacher who said that after teaching second grade for so long, she not only could remember what the kids were like back in kindergarten, but she could look at them and see what they'd be like as teenagers. The kids she said that about, as we stood in the park six years ago watching them kick a soccer ball around, are in eighth grade now, big hulking pseudo-grownups ready to graduate from our school.

(Fortunately, the kids usually also become completely nuts around this time of year, or I'd dissolve into a puddle of mush.)

This year I have two schools to get all verblunget about, as of course my own tiny little mewling (screaming like a banshee, actually, if I remember right) baby is about to "graduate" from kindergarten at the Smartypants Yuppie School. Last night was the Spring Concert for the choirs and bands. Mermaid Girl has been in the Little Kids' Choir since January, after we went to the Winter concert and she saw a bunch of her classmates singing. So we trooped over early and she stood up there in her maroon SYS Choir T-shirt and acutally did appear to be moving her lips and singing and clapping and stamping her feet along with everyone else.

I wish I could say that was what got me choked up, but actually I find it hard to focus when my own kid is performing; my every cell is so focused on willing her to be Okay and wondering exactly how much eye contact is the right amount that I can't really Be In the Moment. Still, it's hard to be unaffected by seventy 5-to-7-year-olds singing their hearts out, even if what they're singing is (I kid you not) "The Mickey Mouse Club."

But what really hit me hard was the Big Kid Choir, who closed out the evening. I don't know most of these children from a hole in the wall, but I've seen some of them around--at the Winter Concert, at MG's aftercare or on her bus--and they looked familiar in a generic kid kind of way. They opened with a couple of songs from "Oliver!" and then swung into Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds."

"Don't worry," they sang, "About a thing. 'Cause every little thing...gonna be all right." And my heart cracked open, and I started crying, right there in the front row.

I couldn't tell you why. I can't really explain it now, though I've been trying to, for this post. I just kept looking at them singing, those sweet-faced third-graders who used to be MG's age, and the older kids, in the back, one foot out the door of elementary school already. "Don't worry," they sang, over and over, "About a thing."

You could say, I guess, that these kids don't have a thing to worry about. By the standards of the world, most or all of them are incredibly privileged: they live in nice houses, in a safe, comfortable neighborhood, with (mostly, I'm guessing, based on the families I've met from this school) loving and open-minded parents. They're in the golden years of childhood: third, fourth, and fifth grade, the hard stumblings and frustrations of preschool and little-kid-hood far behind them, the rocky shores of adolescence still out in the distance.

But everyone has worries. MG's teacher's son was there in the back row, a fifth grader, singing out without embarrassment like the sweet boy he is, but his face already lean and chiseled with the beginnings of his teenage self. His friend, a tall blond kid with a cloud of proto-hippie hair, stood next to him. They'll be going to middle school next year; how can they not be worried about that? The girls who are starting to develop, the kids whose parents fight, the wondering if you'll be in the best reading group or get invited to the birthday party-- all those worries must swirl around their heads, as they did for me and everyone I know who was once a kid.

"Every little thing...gonna be all right," they sang again. How can they know all the ways that can be false? All the disappointments and setbacks, the breakups, the blown job interviews, the money worries, the deaths, the fights. The big and little tragedies of life. And the grinding everyday-ness of middle age.

It's the most banal truism in the world, that children grow older and up into grownups, that grownups were once children. But it never ceases to knock me back. I was a kid once too, with endless potential, made much of and applauded for every little thing. I don't have a bad life; I have a good job, a loving family. I'm lucky in many of the same ways they are. But sometimes all I can see, looking back, are the dead ends and lost opportunities, the wrong choices, the frittering away of decades of a life I'm almost halfway through.

"This is my message to you-ou-ou," they sang on, oblivious (I hope) to that weird weeping mom snorfling into her shirt in the front row. And it was, though they didn't know it. It was their message to me.

"Don't worry...about a thing. Cause every little thing...gonna be all right." I wish it to be true for all of them. I wish them extraordinary lives. I wish them to live out their potential and know happiness and change the world. And I wish it for me, too, of course. And for Mermaid Girl. Can it be, that everything could be all right?

We left the concert, MG's arms full of flowers from doting parents and grandparents, and split up for the ride home since RW had come right from work. Mermaid Girl and I drove through the still-light evening. We passed the funky little park up the street; it's old and unreconstructed, with sand on the ground instead of groovy new-age rubber. The climber and monkey bars are old-school metal and wood, not bright primary-colored plastic. There are never many kids there; the whole place feels seedy and marginal. But it's the only park in walking distance, so we've been going there since she was a baby, and have a stubborn affection for it.

"Look!" MG cried as we passed. "It's Nene and Lola!" And there they were, our next-door neighbor and her toddler daughter, climbing on the unpainted, splintery climber. "Can't we stop to play with them a little?" she asked sweetly. "Please?"

It was almost 9:00, and she had big smudges under her eyes. I hesitated. Usually we push through our evenings, transition to transition, focused single-mindedly on getting her in bed on time so she doesn't melt down the next day.

The air was warm and clear, the way Seattle can be on its best days. The sky was still daytime-blue, but the moon shone in the sky. The breeze blew in the open window.

I swung around the block and pulled up in front of the park, and MG ran to meet our neighbors. She kicked off her flip-flops and pumped herself on the swings. She showed off her flips on the bar, and gave Lola a hug when we all left a few minutes later.

"You know," I said, back in the car. "Do you remember back on Rosh Hashanah when we threw our sins in the water? And you wanted to throw away the sin of not singing and clapping with everyone else?"

"Yeah," she said.

"I think you really threw that sin away. Because tonight, I saw you singing and clapping."

She just sat in her booster seat, so proud, and a little older already than she was yesterday.

It could be. It could be that I don't need to worry. About a thing.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Blogging for Books

The Indefatigable Joshilyn Jackson is once again hosting Blogging for Books, and for once I'm right on top of things and posting this reminder the very first day. So that you--yes, you, one of the 47 or so people who I know reads this intermittently-updated blog, whether you comment or lurk--can enter and maybe even win a free book. A free book! Who doesn't like free books?

Also, never-ending fame as a B4B winner, which is a fine fine thing to be.

All you have to do is write a post on the assigned theme by next Monday and link to it in a comment on Joshilyn's blog. The theme this month is MAGIC.

What are you still here for? Why aren't you running back to your computers to write about magic?