So we are shuttling between the city and the garden again with school back in session, and for the past 5 days or so I was without an internet connection. It feels good to be back! Tonight we will go back to the garden for the weekend, but Baki has had a good first week at school, and I have fully recovered from the ordeal of the first day which was, oddly, much more difficult for me than for Baki.
We use the term surreal when we find ourselves in a situation that makes no sense. In an incongruous situation, reality seems to wobble. On Monday, I found myself in such a situation not once, but twice. But the thing is, surreal is a broad term. It can mean dreamlike, or it can evoke Kafka.
I drove the boys in to the city on Sunday and we went to school on Monday morning for his first day of second grade. We walked past all the first grade classrooms, and the nervous parents and thought, “My, how we’ve progressed!” Baki was the first student in his class to arrive. His teacher, the same teacher as last year (they stay together until grade 5), was happy to see him, and the next student to arrive was a girl that Baki likes, so when I left him, all was well.
Then I dove into the trenches of first day business, jockeying lines of irate parents with Kaya riding on my back in his carrier. I won’t lie — I was not equal to the task.
The school bus line was bad enough, where every other parent’s sparkling wit and charm seemed to grant them a place before me, even when I was standing right in front of the line, waiting. Okay, I am not assertive enough, and this was not a line in the classical sense that we are talking about; this was more like a human wall and the object is to be the brick in the wall that attracts the most attention because then you get helped. So that took forever.
I was soon to have my fill of old-school queuing, though. I went to the gymnasium, where the school uniforms were being sold in the shop on the right hand side of the building, and the text books were being sold from the basketball courts on the left hand side of the building. I knew it was going to be a zoo, because it had been last year, and why would it change, but at least this year I had all the uniform stuff, so all I would have to do was get the books. We waited in the queue for about 25 minutes, and Kaya was good as gold. I told the man behind the desk Baki’s name and class, and he added up how much I would need to pay and wrote Baki’s name in a ledger. Then he told me that the credit card machine wasn’t working, so I would have to go and pay at the uniform shop. He handed me a slip of paper. So I went over to the uniform shop and found an even longer queue. Deep breath. Okay, I thought, I only have the truck for a few days, so I may as well get this done. Of course, as I waited, I began to actually think about how stupid this whole thing was, which is a mistake. The key in these situations is to not think about them, just jump through the hoops.
That is when the heat started to get to Kaya and he started to wail. I didn’t blame him — I think most of the parents there felt like wailing, too. So then the moms at the end of the line with me told me that I ought to just go to the front of the line since the baby was sweaty and miserable. I really hate to queue jump, but at the same time, Kaya was miserable, and I can’t pretend that I was dying to spend another half an hour in the line, sweating it out with a crying child. So I went up to the front of the line.
At the front of the line, someone was paying for a skirt and another woman was paying for some books. The woman behind the desk finished ringing up the skirt and then turned to me and said, “Weren’t you just in the back of the line?” I explained that my child was getting really hot from all the waiting, and I was sorry but could I just pay for these books? She refused to even look at me, saying that if she helped me, all the parents behind me were going to give her a hard time or ask her for favors. Meanwhile, the mother who was buying the books said to me, “Never mind, just pay for the books. We’re all parents here.” The woman behind the counter kept on talking, and I tried to ask her when they open so I could just come first thing, then the guy at the register took my slip of paper and rang me up. I took my receipt to the other side of the building, got the books and ran out of there as fast as I could. I loaded them in the car and just about made it away from the school before I started crying. I think I will entreat upon Ali to accompany me to the first day of school next year — I need allies in the trenches!
It was only a half day, so I had promised Baki I would take him out after school and we ended up going to a new place called Snow World. Now, it was a very hot day out — about 35C/95F. And when you go to Snow World, they give you fleece lined pants and jackets and snow boots. Kaya, Baki and I were all bundled up and I was sweaty and tired, and about to get crabby when they opened the door to let us in and we walked into… snow. The temperature is kept at -5C/23F, and there is snow everywhere. There were funny little igloos that Kaya took a shine to (he loves little houses):
There was a cafe, and a weird little cabin marked “private rooms,” but the best thing of all was that there was a pair of curving slopes and plenty of sleds and inner tubes to use to plummet down them. Baki did not hesitate:
He ran up the stairs, whizzed down the slope, ran back to the stairs and repeated… endlessly. Kaya and I enjoyed the lovely cold weather, and stared up at the huge fans keeping the place cold:
It was so cold that eventually Kaya and I ducked into the cafe and had a warm drink. How bizarre to be warming up like this when only a little while earlier we were sweating in the afternoon heat.
When I was finally able to convince Baki to leave, we stumbled out into the heat feeling as if we’d been dreaming. And in a way, we had been part of a dream. The place, as ridiculous as it is, feels like someone’s fantasy (“Wouldn’t it be awesome if there were a place where it snowed every day?”) made real. More importantly, it had managed to erase the insanity of the morning. And we all slept marvelously that night.