Thursday, January 12, 2006


The next big thing

I can’t decide if I’m giddy or ashamed. I think I’m somewhere in between.

I’m giddy because I’ve just been on the phone talking to the elementary school where I’ll be registering Tristan in February for the junior kindergarten session that starts in September.

I’m ashamed because I caved in to my own hypocrisy and am registering him in a Catholic school.

Oh, the angst!

There were a few factors that helped me decide on this particular school. Just before Christmas, there was an ongoing series in the daily newspaper about a school’s preparations for their annual nativity pageant. They were about half way through their series, which I think spanned eight or ten days, before I realized it was the school across the street. I read the last few instalments with interest, and realized that the school, with less than 500 students in JK through grade 6, has a fully realized music program and a drama teacher.

An elementary school with a solid arts program. Be still my heart!

And then, on the last day before Christmas, I was talking about the school and the pageant with the boys’ caregiver, Bobbie. Bobbie’s two sons also go to this school, so it makes afterschool care basically a non-issue. I found out that day that the school also offers a French immersion program starting right from junior kindergarten. After my endless years of trying to force my unilingual brain to accept a second language, I am beyond delighted to give my kids a gift like this.

(My mother is less enthusiastic about the French immersion thing. She believes, as I used to, that immersion makes kids jacks of all languages and master of none. But with me as a mother, I think the kids stand a pretty good chance of having a firm grip on the vagaries of the English language, and I can scrape by enough in French to help them with their homework up until the second grade at least. I just have to keep taking lessons myself so I remain a level or two ahead of them!)

Having agonized through the decision-making process, there was only the minor (insert nervous giggle) issue of the fact that the boys are not yet officially Catholics. When I called the school to ask about enrollment processes she said all we need to present are his birth certificate (check!), his immunization record (check!) and his baptismal certificate (sound of crickets chirping).

"Uh, um," I stammered, knowing that the next three minutes of conversation would probably set the tone for my child's entire institutional educational experience (who me, hyperbolize?). "We, um, haven't exactly done that yet. But we're going to, really soon!" I said, trying to sound as religious as possible.

I could picture Tristan's file being moved from the glowing white "faithful" pile down the escalator to the "heathen" pile in the basement storage closet.

"Are you or your husband Catholics?" she asked piously. (Okay, scratch that, she asked it nicely. Besides, Stephen King says you shouldn't use adverbs in attributive dialogue.) And I hurried to assure her that yes, of course we were, while willing myself with my entire being not to keep yapping and tell her about the divorce, Beloved's lack of confirmation and the many nights I lay awake conflicted by my own doubts about organized religion. "Oh then, that's no problem," she assured me. "Just bring in a copy of your baptismal certificate, or your husband's, and we'll be on our way."

(sound of crickets chirping)

Baptismal certificate, eh? I had one, once upon a time. I would have had to present it to get married in the Church, for my practice marriage back in 1989. And I probably left it with the ex-laws, along with all my other important papers, that I ditched in my rush to get the hell out of there back in 1993. I sent Beloved off to scour his keepsake boxes, and while he could come up with his 34 year old baptismal candle branded with the relevant details, I don't think it would have fit in the photocopier.

In the end, I called the Church where I was baptized, and they're sending me off a spanking fresh copy of my own certificate. For free! Tomorrow! Okay, for that kind of service, I have to take back at least some of the nasty things I've said about the Church over the years - the government could take a few lessons on efficency and customer service when it only takes 24 hours to retrieve, replicate and send a 36 year old record.

So, the boys will be attending Catholic school. While I've spent a lot of time agonizing over it in the past four years, I've come to an uneasy peace with our decision. We might even start going to church. Sometimes.

Hey, it's a start.