She sipped her Cosmopolitan while I sipped my water.
I was out for dinner with my father and my husband, an unusual treat on a Saturday night. Our table, though, was almost uncomfortably close to the neighboring table where a well-dressed couple sat.
Despite the din of the dining area, my ears perked up when she mentioned swim team. What can I say? I love swimming. I glanced at the couple, but knew they were not any of our swim parents. I wondered what team their child swam with.
Talk of Middlesex, test scores, and tutors made me realize they had a child at prep school.
Just the day before I had taken Karl to a college event for accepted students at a small private college. Early in the day, I had noticed a couple who held hands as they walked from building to building, from session to session. They, too, were well-dressed — she in her long red wool coat, complemented by cream-colored mittens and scarf, and he in a charcoal-colored wool coat and leather gloves. I liked that they held hands. It made me feel warm.
Our last session of the morning was parents-only while the prospective students attended a class. The provost gave a brief presentation outlining ways the college helps students make the transition from high school to college. She then opened the time for questions. Immediately, a formerly leather-gloved hand rose.
“My daughter has been at boarding school for four years. She’s quite advanced. She’s not going to be dealing with the same issues of transitioning. What are you going to do to challenge her?”
The provost launched into an explanation of how, because their college is small, the professors will know the students well and find ways to challenge them, and that there is a learning difference between high school and college, less rote learning and more learning to question.
The hand rose again. “But my daughter is very advanced. She’s been at a top boarding school. How will you challenge her? Will she be in appropriate classes for an advanced freshman?”
The provost again attempted to address his concerns.
And a third time the parent spoke of his advanced child and her boarding school.
I soured on them. No longer was their hand-holding warm and fuzzy to me.
I made up a song that I sang in my head whenever I saw them. It’s to the tune of “The Addams Family.”
You act so very snooty.
You think that I’m a cootie.
I shouldn’t give a hoot-y.
You’re the boardingschoolfamily.
Your daughter is advanced.
She’s probably been to France.
Me? I worry about finance.
But you’re the boardingschoolfamily.
Duh-na-na-na, duh-na-na-na, duh-na-na-na (click-click)
The next day, at the restaurant, the song started running through my head.
She ordered a second Cosmopolitan. The waitress refilled my water.
I couldn’t focus on the conversation at my table. I kept hearing tutors and test scores, and pictured the scowling girl I had seen slouching next to her parents at the college the previous day.
It’s such a foreign world to me. Prep school, that is. I always think of the Baroness saying to Captain von Trapp, “Darling, haven’t you ever heard of a delightful little thing called boarding school?” Truthfully, that’s the moment in the film when I begin to dislike the Baroness.
I was still processing the dinner boarding school talk the following day at a swim meet. I commented on it to one of my co-coaches. Boarding school. Ugh.
How condescending I sounded! I was looking down my nose at them!
When the waitress brought her a third Cosmopolitan, I had glanced at their table again. Her entree was the same as mine.
I turned that over in my mind again and again.
She may drink Cosmopolitans and I may drink water, but we both ate the same dinner.
She may send her children to boarding school and I may keep my children at home, but we both want what’s best for our children. We’re both parenting the best we can.
Her daughter may swim for a prep school and mine for a local club team, but we both have daughters that swim.
She may worry about test scores and tutors and I may worry about quarterly reports, but we both are involved in our child’s education.
Even the boardingschoolfamily (click, click) at the college was simply trying to look out for their child’s best interests.
I’m such a snob. I’m ashamed of myself.