Monday, July 30, 2007

That Critical Curriculum | Antioch Lives!

an open letter to the Board Of Trustees

I have been silent about Antioch College closing since June. Perhaps the silence is representative of where I am at in the grieving process. It definitely looks like denial. But, I think not. I believe it to be something deeper and more profound. Regardless, I invite you to witness my journey since I heard the news.

Ambivalence - of the “shrug your shoulders and chalk it up to fate” variety. I got an e-mail out of the blue from someone who was virtually my neighbour whilst I lived in London. She was an Antiochian. Just like me. She was doing what all Antiochians do when something unacceptable happens. She was organising; building community and preparing to take action. It made me smile and say, “Gee, I learned a lot there. We all did.” Most of all, it made me smile.

Ambivalence - of the “getting fifty thousand things done here, wait a minute” variety. The e-mails kept coming. I swished and swooped across the web. Between flights to London for my job at Historic Royal Palaces at the Tower Of London; being present in the lives of my twenty and four year old children; managing a transcontinental marriage and developing a fund-raising strategy for my local home education group’s curriculum lending library, I looked at everyone’s epinion. I didn’t have one. I was tired.

Ambivalence - of the “hit the school motto crescendo 10 years ago and still living it” variety.
I haven’t been ashamed to die since I was 33. The forty-three years in my life expectancy have begun to seem trivial and anti-climatic. What else can I do? There has been so much! It’s quite frankly overwhelming. But - there is Horace Mann forcing me to put one foot in front of the other everyday.

Antioch may die, but, in an exceptionally European framework. In the cosmos of my ancestors, Antioch will live forever. It’s name will continue to be spoken. The myths and fables and doctrine live within it’s alumnae. And it is contagious. We infect others. The disease of do-gooding is a disastrous and diabolical infection.

Relief - If Antioch dies, does this mean I can no longer be embarrassed to pursue a career as a ruthless, eccentric, narcissistic and evil billionaire because no one will challenge me on my dubious and questionable background? Does it mean I am released from the untenable geas of Horace Mann?

Relief - If Antioch dies, will I succumb to a frenetic and unabashed joy at choosing to be a stay at home mom - just like all the Princeton, Harvard and Yale ladies of my generation? Will I get to stop tap-dancing whilst spinning plates on poles, singing opera and serving 54 course meals? Will they write about me in the New York Times because I’ve made this choice?

Relief - Is Antioch's death a harbinger of the Apocalypse? Does it mean Bush has finally won? Does low enrolment mean we should give cows the vote? After all - they demonstrate more spunk than we do as they approach the slaughterhouse.

Despair - If no one bothers to witness what young people will do once they’ve been informed that they are responsible for their education, their lives, their communities and their government....will just saving one life matter anymore? I used to think transforming one life was a miracle. Some other folks seemed to think this was a good idea too. It paid my bills. It gifted me with satisfaction. It made me unashamed to die. But -the piece of paper credentialing my right to this belief in under attack from dragon fire!

Despair - I used to think about pond ripples. I used to see ripples and waterfalls as interconnected. I never contemplated the arbitrary vindictiveness of fire. Glory! A physics intro! But, wait, oh, yeah - wasn’t there a class at Antioch which offered science/math for the art majors? Oh, yes, didn’t I publish a poem years later about the calculus of menstruation? Oh, yeah - and that other poem I published about the chemistry of .........

Despair - When the last of us go, who will speak the name? Will the name Antioch become as obscure as the names of Gods beaten out of African tongues? If no one is there when they hold out their hands to receive the necessary tools, will the patient - our world - die?

Despair & Hope- How will the cows vote? Surely, they would want Antioch survive. They are spunky - those cows.

So here I am. Plodding through life. Wishing. I believe that right eventually triumphs over wrong. I think that words have power and I teach this idea. I am a product of fairy tales who trusts that the Hero’s Journey is readily available to any young person who desires the path. My small and unremarkable hero’s journey was the cumulation of my time at Antioch. That is the critical curriculum - teaching young people to accept the call; gifting them with tools they’ll need along the journey and allowing them come out on the other side as the mistress of multiple worlds.

Antioch took a girl who lived in an even tidier version of “The Cosby Show” and transformed her into a woman who skillfully navigates between worlds we haven’t even begun to allow into our collective consciousness.

Words have power, so, these are my words.

Antioch will not close. The Board Of Trustees will open themselves to wisdom. Antiochians will move from ambivalence to action regarding the donor who gifted them with the very tools they needed to navigate this curious blue plant in the light of positivity. We will pull together. We will reorient ourselves to this new world and revise Antioch’s place in it.

Amen. Ashe. So mote it be. Harambee. Namaste.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Milestones

a hasty, lacking post

The weather cools. Our bodies can contemplate more activity. Since Christmas, Winston has wanted a scooter. He had it all figured out in his head. He would show me again and again exactly how he would ride it. I would nod and watch him balance on one foot and sweep the other dramatically from front to back.

Years ago, when I was a dancer, I was introduced to the Feldenkrais method. What I remember of that time is that our muscles store memory. What I also remember was the idea that visualisation could reinforce muscle memory. Since Christmas brought the Great Move Home, we did not get him a scooter until his birthday in April.

We couldn’t get that scooter unpacked fast enough! His eagerness propelled his imaginary scooter all through the living room whilst we unpacked it. Delighted, we handed him his first scooter. My husband got him all “protected in helmet, knee pads and elbow protectors. We handed him his scooter. After five minutes of disappointment, he abandoned it. He had “failed.” Needless to say, we didn’t make a big deal about it.

What we did do was make the scooter available and visible. He didn’t touch it again for another two months. Whilst my husband was away on business a few weeks ago, Winston indicated interest in the scooter. I was tired that day. (Being a single parent every other week can be draining sometimes.) So, I handed him the scooter - no elbow or knee pads, no helmut. Back and forth in front of the house, he tried and tried and fell. I smiled and praised his experiments.

I recall the first time he sat up and hit his head on the floor when he was three months old. Within the hour, he had learned to fall and then roll with it. Since that monumental moment at three months, he has had an uncanny ability to figure out a way never to injure his body in that specific manner ever again. Since he has been taking capoeira regularly, his innate agility has been reinforced profoundly. He kept trying - day after day after day.

I suppose Feldenkrais was right in that way. Winston discusses his “failures” extensively. Mostly I listen and keep nagging about the way in which people have to make mistakes in order to learn anything. Regardless, I try to bear witness to his constant visualisation, self-critique and problem solving in a positive way.

About a month ago, it clicked. I think we had some help. We have a new friend. He is a five 1/2 year old boy we met through our homeschool group. Ian loves his scooter. He can do tricks. He can go fast. He loves to involve Winston in “military manoeuvres” where they have to get away fast together. At first that meant Winston on foot chasing behind Winston’s scooter. (We haven’t had a dual scooter play date recently, but I can’t wait.) But, after every meeting with Ian, Winston attacked his scooter with renewed carelessness.

He is close to stopping my heart now. He’s gotten good! He gets it going fast and then squats and wiggles the handle bars. He rides with his head back skimming along faster than the clouds. He’s trying to make the scooter hop and jump. He makes daring curves. But, he is not content in his victory.

Today, he needed a bike. Imagine my surprise. Since we moved back, I’ve been pushing a bike on him. We had bought him one of those expensive Like-Bikes in London. After the first failure, he gave up completely on bikes. But, every yard sale, every adventure to Target would find me looking wistfully at the bikes saying: “Are you sure you want a princess dress? Look at these lovely bikes!” No! Today. Today was bike day. I’m thankful I planned for this eventuality - or I’d be manoeuvring through detritus on the River Styx tonight.

So, we bring the bike home. We pull it out of the mini-van. It does not “work.” It rocks from side to side. Every tilt sends Winston into a panic. He thrusts his foot down. Then, he has to get back up on the seat. But, he wants to, “Ride!” He wants me to take the handle bars and pull him along the pavement.

“No way!” I say, “This is your bike. You have to make friends with it, just like you and your scooter got acquainted. Quietly. Slowly. Remember?”

He nods his head. But, his eyebrows are stubbornly set in a frown.

I sit on the front stoop. I ask him to remember, “Your scooter and you didn’t get along very well at first.”

He nods his head. The eyebrows disagree still. “I want to ride,” he states empathic ally.

“Well, I have an idea. Want to hear it?”

He nods his head, eyebrows sceptical.

“You remember how you spent a long time making friends with your scooter?”

He nods.

“Did I push you along on your scooter?”

“No.”

“Who taught you to ride your scooter.”

Pause. Pause. Pause.

Slowly, with hesitant humble pride he states, “Me.”

“Yeah,” I smile, “You taught yourself to ride the scooter. Who’s going to teach you to ride the bike?”

Less firm now, “Me.” Shy smile.

“That’s right! And who is going to watch and be so happy?”

“You.”

“Right, and - before you do that, can I show you something?”

“Yeah.”

“I want to show you how the training wheels work. Want to see?”

He nods. Eyes already assessing what else is available. He is suddenly not sure again.

I go inside and bring out the scales and a basket of mosaics. I reposition his bike to line up with the scales. I show him the centre wheel, the right and left training wheels. then I show him the centre of the scale, and the right and left baskets.

I put a mosaic in the right scale. “When you get on the bike, it looks like this.”

Then, I drop one mosaic into the left hand basket. The scales balance. “But as you shift your weight on the seat, it looks like this,” I say as I drop another mosaic into the left basket.

“I want to ride.” He is determined to do this tonight.

“Okay,” I say. “I think you need to spend time just sitting on your bike rocking back and forth.”

“Okay,” he acquiesces reluctantly. I feel awful.

But, he climbs up on his red, rocket flame, go-fast bike. Right as he gets “centred,” it tips. He thrusts his leg down to catch himself and I catch him.

“Have you thought about the scales?” I ask.

“Yes.”

“You know, the way they rock a lot but always end up balancing or catch themselves just before they crash?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s try that.”

“Okay,” he says with an edge of frustration and whine in his voice.

So I tip him to one side. I just barely catch him the second before the training wheel hits the ground. And then tip him to the other side. He trusts me. Eventually he feels the rhythm. I say, “go this way. Go that way!” And he rocks back and forth until I completely remove my hands. There he is, rocking back and forth, back and forth all by himself. Suddenly confidant again, he wants to ride.

I push him. He pedals and ends up in the lawn. I straighten the wheel. I push him and pedals again into the lawn. This goes on and on past dinner. But, eventually he can pedal 8 times without crashing into grass. He is tired. I am more exhausted than if I had spent an hour pushing and steering him up and down the block. He is filled with fatigue because he had to think. Feldenkrais had the right idea. He had to see himself doing it. He had to make muscle memories in order for him to relax in the balancing act.

We have reached a milestone here. We are beginning to learn about riding bikes. He is getting better at it than I ever was. This is, of course, what every teacher must always hope for.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Summer Lacksidasical

The summer slips away silkily. Sticky, sweltering days find us pool side. At home, Winston seeks shelter from Mrs. Rosebud in the front yard. Even the children are keeping out of the sun.

Time slides sideways during the summer. Weeks tesseract. Before I know it, a week has gone and then another. I’m not busy or doing anything - just being in the heat and sunshine. The promise of rain fills me with a peculiar hopeful joy. Real cool wet - not pore slime and skin grease.

There is something about this season which just invites you inside of your body. We are all at home here this summer. Our minds are disturbingly quiet.

+ + +

Tonight, I ran to the shop for some things. Outside a young brother was selling his cd’s. I sorrowfully said, “Sorry, I’m a bit skinned until Friday.”

“That’s okay,” I’ll be here Friday,” he said.

I marched into the shop and picked up my stuff. But, he stayed on my brain. When I came out I asked him about his cd. Midway through the conversation he said, “I don’t need you to buy my cd to show that you support me. There’s all different kinds of support. Thanks.”

Turns out, of course, he wants to be a hip hop artist. But, he wants to say different things than bling and bludgeoning. I told him that was a very important mission. I told him I was an old timey performance poet. He nodded and smiled, he’d never heard of me. It was nice.

Anyway, I raced home, grabbed my cd and ran back to give it to him. The shock on his face was worth the petrol. But - I figure - the old have to support the new.

I’ve been finding it alarmingly charming that I’ve only been gone 2 years and nobody remembers me anymore.

+ + +

But, my son thinks I’m the most fantastic creature in creation. I don’t think he’ll ever learn to swim. Why should he bother when he can loll about in my arms and be swish swirled through the water? There is one human being in the world who thinks I look stunning in a bathing suit. (Okay - I’ll grudgingly and graciously say two and count my husband. )

I had business cards made the other day. They read:

Springer-Nunley Associates
a 24/7, 365 full service provider

Christina Springer,
Winston’s Mum

It’s a fantastic job.

+ + +

I can’t wait to hear Eater’s cd on Friday. Even distant, my fingers like pots. I have a good feeling about this little brother. And maybe his beats will be something appropriate for Winston to sing along to...rather than, "girl you're too beautiful, you'll have me suicidal, suicidal, suicidal."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

independence day check list

like my firstborn
hate my firstborn
forgive my first born

repeat

forgive me
and my husband
forgive the first born

repeat



breathe.

tally the sum of my shortcomings
add the failures of every partner
multiply oestrogen. divide testosterone.

subtract

two grown women walking arm-in-arm in Gatwick
as brother pirouettes to keep up, then
laughing and tickling the boy-intrusion

multiply

laughing and tickling the brother;
pretending not to see him jiggling the curtains,
slapping the easel with painted hands.

repeat

two days in a row... repeat
three days in a row... repeat.
four days....plead exhaustion.

subtract

taking one’s plate to the kitchen;
putting one’s shoes in the foyer;
being civil.

add

fat cheek dimpled brother smiles;
woman placing each heavy foot before the other;
distant man scowling and refusing technological assistance

add
curling up in a womb red chair and watch anime. repeat
play loud music, dance and teach brother hot new club songs.
blow bubbles in the pool with brother

repeat.

breathe.

get a job. pay for Mama Shuttle Service. repeat.
have a party. clean the house. repeat
be confused and vulnerable.

repeat.

scream a lot and observe the way
it becomes ice cream melting across Mama’s body
and the way Step Father cleans it off.

repeat.

forgiveness. acceptance.
hate. love.
a child jumping on your body crowing,

I love you wake up!