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Entry 5 -- Public Relations Comes Knocking

I get the groceries home, put them away, and decide that since the shop seems quiet, I'll cut up the vegetables for tonight's chowder and leave them in a covered bowl. It will mean less work later in the day when I need to take my cooking break.

I get done with the carrots and the anise bulb. The feathers are for salad. I am busy with the onion, when I hear someone knocking at the door. Well, it has taken three years for salespeople to find our apartment which is up a flight of wooden stairs on the side of R & O Pring and All Color Sign.

I check to see who it is through the panes of curtained glass. It is Ms. Goldfarb, Josh' mother. I wonder if Orel sent her. My hands stink of onion. What could she want with me? Ms. Goldfarb is a plump woman with golden brown hair that frames a happy pink face in little waves. She has hazel eyes hidden behind thick glasses. She wears well fitting expensive clothes. Today her outfit is brown knit pants and a white turtleneck sweater. She carries an expensive leather bag that I fear she may soil even though our chairs are clean. I suggest a chair for her bag since the kitchen table is in a state of chaos.

"Can I make you some tea or coffee?" I begin.

She shrugs. I put on water and go back to my onion. I think I am busier than she is.

She begins: "Your husband said you were upstairs and that I should talk to you."

"Is there some kind of problem?" I ask.

"No, I just wanted to let you know that the boys are invited to Saturday night's meeting. I'm trying to get the word out to all the parents."

"You're doing all that in person."

"I used to work in public relations. I want to get to know all the parents who share our interests."

Well, that does make sense.

"Is this kind of like the Harvard club?" I ask.

"More like a prospective Ivy League, Seven Sisters, and MIT Association," answers Ruth Goldfarb.

"That name is too long," I reply.

"You're right," sighs Ms. Goldfarb. "So how do you like it here in Greenup?"

"Business is good," I answer.

"Yes, but personally and for the boys...the schools."

"I've had to twist arms a few times with Stasch' IEP. He is smart enough for regular classes and nearly normal on medication."

I see Ms. Goldfarb wince. "Stasch has ADHD," I remind her. "They gave him early intervention which helped a lot. He was a bit behind because he was so busy bouncing he didn't learn what most other kids just pick up. He learned some things though." I smile.

"What about your older son?"

"Oisin, would like to take as much French as the school will give him," I say. It's the right thing to say. It is also true. "He'll probably also take calculus. He's the first person I've ever met who likes to study but that must be where they get valedictorians from."

"You support him don't you?" asks Ms. Goldfarb.

"There's not much for me to support."

Ms. Goldfarb makes a little unhappy sound.

"I mean, I wasn't that kind of a student and neither was my husband, but if Oisin wants to be, well, he's a good example to his brother and we both make sure he has a quiet place to study and all the rest. He doesn't need to be all over the computer since most of his work is with books and magazines. I think my boyfriend would be happier if Oisin was interested in a mechanical career, but he's too good a student for that. He might stick out all four years of college and really learn something so I have no problem with him studying and taking all the courses he can."

"So you want the French teacher and think there should be separate teachers for physics and chemistry..." Ms. Goldfarb felt like a fish out of water.

"Of course I do," I replied. "The way things are going with the boys, Stasch may need those things too by the time he's in high school. Business is good here and we'll probably be here all the time the boys are growing up. They're not going back to their mother in Duluth. She has two more kids now and will probably end up with a third. That's more than she can handle."

Ruth Goldfarb looked down.

"Look Ms. Goldfarb," I begin.

"Call me Ruth."

"OK Ruth. I see it like this. All the class stuff is bullshit. Oisin is smart the way some kids are athletic. If you have a kid who's a star gymnast you know he needs a coach. Oisin needs teachers. I want to have a kid who's a star. I want Oisin to succeed every bit as much as you want Josh to make it and that for these kids is going to mean a shot at some very fancy schools. It feels weird to me. It wasn't my thing. It's not my boyfriend's but it's Oisin's and I've made peace with that."

"Great," sighed Ruth. The conversation then drifts to extracurriculars, meetings of clubs after school. She talks about how kids need to join clubs to appear well rounded for fancy universities which apparently look at more than grades and SAT scores.

I remind Ruth that around here kids take the ACT's. "Not for Harvard they don't," answers Ruth Goldfarb.

"That doesn't happen until the kids are seniors doesn't it?" I ask.

"The first round is junior year," she replies.

"Well that's still two years away."

Apparently, I've got a whole lot to learn. I ask Ruth Goldfarb to suggest some good books on this fancy college business. I realize now that I've never known any body who tried to get in to Harvard or MIT before and thatit might effect Oisin as a freshman, something I never thought about before.

Ruth says she doesn't know any books but suggests I try the library. I make a mental note to do that the next time I can get a break from work. Meanwhile, I wash my hands and head over to the computer. I figure Ruth and I both cook.

"Would you like my recipe for fish chowder. I don't know if you make that."

"We eat fish," answered Ruth.

"Do you like pollock?" I ask.

"We eat it," she shrugs. Good, we are on the same wave length. I print her off the recipe, plus a few others. She folds them and sticks them in her purse.

She says she has other parents to see. I ask her what to do if mothers work. She says she goes out at night. Her family, like mine eats dinner late.

I watch Ruth head down the stairs. Then I go back to cutting up the garlic and the chile pepper. I wash my hands and the plates and knives. I pour Ruth's unfinished tea down the sink. I hope she and her husband will actually eat my cake Saturday night.

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