Kate starts school in 11 hours. I’m so happy I could — well, I could get some work done, that’s what. I could get through a morning without having to police piano practice, computer time and the infernal television.
I know, I know: Lighten up. Let her self-police. If only. I believe in moderation, really I do. TV, fast food and a candy counter that consists entirely of various forms of loose, pourable sugar — these are all part of the world Kate lives in, and she’ll have to learn to handle them eventually. I know people who have removed TV from their houses, eat nothing that’s not organically grown, and claim to have children who willingly eat grilled salmon and choose “La Boheme” when offered a pick for the car stereo. Personally, I think these people are hostile, but oh well. I didn’t get one of those kids. I got a normal one. If allowed to eat whatever she wanted from the world’s bounty, she’d exist on Triscuits, popcorn and Baby Bottle Pops. If asked to sing a song, will trill, “Lays, get your smile on” or some other ad jingle.
I try to recall how my mother handled these things, and then I remember: My mother raised her children when kids’ TV was one hour of Romper Room or Captain Kangaroo in the morning. Junk food was potato chips and chocolate bars, not a whole aisle at the supermarket just for the salt and another just for the sugar. No internet, no cable.
Some days I feel like Joseph Stalin. I am Joseph Stalin. Who wants to be Joseph Stalin? One of the neighbor kids watches PG-13 and R-rated movies. She is 7. She says her mother tells her, “I know you won’t use those bad words, so it’s OK.” I should practice saying that, maybe as I pop Xanax like candy. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so much like swearing like an actor in an R-rated movie.
If tomorrow starts the first day of her being someone else’s problem for just a few brief hours, well then, I’m ready.
But she’s a good kid. You should hear her play “Go to the Head of the Class” with her friends, many of whom are a year ahead in school. One question asked what country gave us pizza. Her friend, totally serious, said, “Little Caesarland.” Kate, to her credit, both laughed appreciatively and knew the correct answer.
Two hours remain of Labor Day. Yesterday we went down to Hart Plaza, to the Detroit International Jazz Festival. It was a beautiful night, and it was interesting to come upon one detail in particular, a sort of raised disc, adorned with quotes from labor leaders. There’s the expected (“Don’t mourn. Organize.” — Joe Hill) and the less-so (“They can cut off our fingers one by one, but together they make a mighty fist.” — Little Turtle). It’s still bracing to see organized labor lionized, after years of living in a place where it’s often equated with communism. Jimmy Hoffa’s not a punchline here, he’s a guy people knew, and he’s on that monument, too, although I don’t recall what it was. Solidarity forever, anyway. Back to work tomorrow.