I’m wondering why, on my morning walk, I even started thinking about a certain exclusive pre-school that sat atop a certain bluff in a certain riverfront town. A preschool that, 14 years ago, decided that my then-three-year-old wasn’t advanced enough to join all of his friends that September in their hand-picked, crunchy granola classroom and benefit from the finest progressive pre-k education a co-op could offer. I hadn’t thought about that school, or that incident, in over a decade – I had certainly stopped ruminating about it long before that. But this morning, as I leaned down to pick up some discarded frozen yogurt cups on the corner – cups that I’d noticed on my walk the day before and now realized were not going to get into a trash container any other way – I felt very sorry for myself because it was so hard for me to bend forward to retrieve them.
My stiff midsection made me think about calling my friend Suzanne, who happens to live in that certain riverfront town, and tell her about my body woes, because she is a massage therapist and acupuncturist and also because she understands my particular lot in life, which is that I hold my emotions so tightly in check that they wreck havoc on my musculoskeletal system. If I called Suzanne, I would have told her about the woman I’ve been seeing who does “energy work” and how, after two sessions with her, having embarked on a process of (in her words) unfurling all the tension and stress within, I can now barely bend forward and do not feel in the least bit unfurled, but rather achy and stiff, as if I’ve aged 15 years in the last four weeks.
But as I continued to walk, my mind quickly jumped from that Suzanne to a different Suzanne, one who also lives in that certain riverfront town, and whom I happened to run into a few weeks ago on a train ride into Manhattan. I hadn’t seen This Other Suzanne for almost as long as the preschool incident, because her daughter was one of my son’s friends who did get accepted to that certain exclusive pre-school and not long after that, we moved. This Other Suzanne’s daughter just finished her senior year in high school and was off to college somewhere, I forget where, but I’m sure it’s someplace fabulous, because This Other Suzanne’s daughter was fluent in two languages by age three and has a rather unusual name (after the wife of a famous painter), but most importantly, she attended a certain very exclusive preschool.
I didn’t spend a minute of my walk trying to remember the name of the daughter’s college or the name of the painter for whose wife she was named, but instead turned my attention quickly to a certain exclusive college that The Teenager wants to apply to Early Decision, in the hopes that it might better the chance of his acceptance from under 10% to perhaps 12 or 13 percent. This is exactly the type of college I have not wanted The Teenager to apply to at all because I have developed, over the years, a reverse prejudice about Schools Like That, and have deemed them, in my mind, haughty and elitist and basically just institutions that manufacture assholes. I hold this opinion strongly and deeply, even though many, many of my close friends went to Schools Like That and not a one of them is an asshole.
Yet, on my walk, I began to have a fantasy of The Teenager receiving an acceptance letter from a certain exclusive college and rather than worrying about whether or not he would turn into an asshole, I immediately imagined taking a picture of that acceptance letter and mailing it to a certain exclusive preschool along with a simple handwritten note containing only a certain vulgar two-word phrase that is meant to convey both disdain and superiority.
And the prospect of that made me smile.
As I was replaying my fantasy over and over, imagining my note being read by the self-same woman who, 14 years ago, thought it was reasonable to judge three-year-old children on their “potential,” I found myself becoming really excited by the prospect of The Teenager getting into that certain exclusive college, largely so I could thumb my nose at a woman whose name I will never remember and whose face I wouldn’t recognize in a million years.
And then I wondered whether, maybe, just maybe, the Energy Healer’s work isn’t working because I have a tendency to hold on so tightly to old resentments and wrongdoings. Whether I can’t bend forward because there are too many things my muscles won’t let go of; that perhaps they’re forever tethered by my every longstanding rebuff.
I had to wonder whether the frozen yogurt cups were left on my corner for A Reason. Whether some cosmic force knew I would lean down to pick them up and they would remind me how easy it is to get rid of garbage that’s not your own, and how it really shouldn’t be any harder to get rid of your own garbage, but, damn, it sure is.
And how letting go of something that’s been a part of you for a long time, even something that you know doesn’t belong there anymore, feels a little like being broken.