Tina Rowley

writer + (performer) + [space left open for surprises]

the star sailors of sacajawea

Finn likes to relax with the latest issue of Vogue when I'm tucking him in bed at night. We flip through, working at a quick pace. We know what we don't have to waste time on, and we know just where we like to linger. His taste is sure, and when he sees a spread that pleases it, he shouts "STAR SAILOR!", pointing extravagantly at the page -- sometimes so extravagantly that I accidentally get knocked in the face.

Up with bright color and flowing, feminine, ruffly shapes. Up with glossy red lipstick, up with perfume samples. Up with Drew Barrymore and her lush features, her pearlescent, peacock-toned Cover Girl eye shadow.

Down with/boo to/spit on neutrals and all black-and-white photography. Down with boring, business-y shapes. Down with severe tailoring. Down with plain handbags. Down with minimalism. Execute minimalism, gangland-style. Toss the gun and stroll out into the street, cape fluttering behind you, never looking back.

Finn is the love child of Martha Stewart and Ziggy Stardust, the love child of Lord Byron and Kramer. He's the Black Stallion, he's a hothouse orchid. Brains coming out of his ears, and an almost wasteful amount of physical beauty. And I don't want to talk about the sensitivity, lest I disturb it from all the way over here in the other room. He's a one-off, I'm trying to tell you. I rarely talk about him here because he taxes my descriptive powers too much. You can see how much I'm revving the engine already. I promise you that these are the most accurate, least over-the-top descriptions available to me.

All children are totally special. I know it. I know. I really do. No "but" here.

But* I'm just watching my now-very-heavily-described, indescribable firstborn go out and interact for the first time in a big way with a world that is not exactly tailored for his...do I call it a type?

*because it's down here



Today was day seven, and it was the first day that Finn went into class without crying and clinging to us. To Dave, I should say. After the first three days, it became abundantly clear that I shouldn't be anywhere near his classroom entry. I was already taking a quarter of a Xanax in the morning to try not to cry when he cried, and that dose was starting to look too small. (You're probably like, right, because: a quarter of a Xanax. I'm small, see? And, uh...sensitive.)

Finn would be fine first thing in the morning. No problem getting ready for school. We have a mixed CD in the car that's all Finn's favorite songs, and we'd listen to it on the way there. No problem during "Chicken Grabber". Looking good through "Staying Alive", especially while Fred bobs his head to the music. ("Staying Alive" is Fred's signature tune, has been from the first minute he heard it and began rocking out, and holy shit, does it suit him. Fred, my little man, you're a story for another day.) Not bad even through Booker T. Jones, as we're pulling up to the school. Things would start wobbling up on the playground as we waited for the school bell -- though he'd be maintaining -- and then as soon as that SUPER FUCKING LOUD STARTLING AIR RAID SIREN* of a bell rang, he'd shoot into misery.

*none of this aided by the fact that whenever the bell rings, all the children instantly scream.

When the bell blasts, all the kids line up outside their classroom and get ready for their teachers to throw open the doors for another day of totally! fun! learning! -- and for the other kids, that's exactly what it seems like. They're grinning and bobbing around and ignoring their moms and dads because they have all been to preschool. But, as I said in an earlier post, Finn only went to preschool for three days. (Topic for another day, if ever. To sum up: Hey, moms and dads! Send your kids to preschool!)

Bell rings. Finn crumples fast and hard. He's crying, grabbing on to me. I'm patting his head and rubbing his back and talking brightly to him while invisible gangs of thugs kick the shit out of my heart. I gesture for Dave to take over, since Mama is a more primal pull -- I've got that womb, see? -- than Pops. I stand a few feet away with Fred, blowing kisses and making little thumbs-up and tough-fist "You can do it!" gestures as the line moves forward -- forcibly, for Finn. Dave is moving him toward the classroom. Finn is trying everything he can. He's digging his feet into the asphalt and pulling backwards, and when that doesn't work, he's hanging off of Dad's hand with his feet off the ground, getting airlifted to his doom. It would be hilarious if it weren't so heartwrenching.

As soon as Dave has him in the classroom, I squeeze Fred in my arms and the tears come flying. Other moms hover sympathetically nearby, offering encouragement. I laugh-cry-talk with them, and pretty soon they're welling up, too.

I've never, with either of my babies, been drawn to do anything like a parent's group. That always seemed like far too broad a stroke. Parent's group? Mom's group? It felt like it was casting the net way too wide. "Hey, honey, I'm off to people group!" But in the last week and a half, I've changed. If you are the mother or father of a kindergartener, we are bosom buddies, a priori. I don't need to know one more thing. If your child has been in kindergarten for seven days like mine has, we might as well be buried together, you and I. We are that close.

And I have to say that this group of parents seems particularly delightful. I'm starting to get school spirit, frankly. Sacajawea Elementary and all associated with it kick ass as far as I'm concerned. Finn told me excitedly today that the principal, Barry Dorsey, stands on the playground and yells "Laaaaaaaaadeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez and......" and all the kids scream out "GENTLEMEN!!!!!!" And then...something? Finn didn't feel like telling me anything else, so I don't know what comes next. But just that nugget of information is perfect.

Where are we? Right, Finn's inside. And this little illustration stands for five out of the seven days he's been to school. He's in the Peace Corner. The other kids are patting his back, holding his hand. (I die at the sweetness.) A pretty little girl named Trinity who sits at his desk is telling him, "You don't have to cry EVERY day!" (Dave reported happily that yesterday Trinity began her wifely ministrations with Finn, telling him all about the good things they would get to do that day, even going so far as to reach over and adjust the zipper at the top of his jacket like she was straightening his tie. Finn, all what is this girl doing? -- and ever the smoothie -- kicked her lightly in the foot. Trinity said to Dave, "He kicked me!" but it was clear that she didn't mind and this wouldn't stop her.) (Oh, Trinity. Be safe out there.)

But let me cut to the chase. He's doing better! When I pick him up every day, he does not look remotely like a guy who's been to hell. I ask him about his day in the car on the way home.

I ask:

"What stories did you read this morning?"

and he answers:

"The Napping House. It was something about a Grandma and some animals and a boy."

or he answers:

"A very important story about little kids." "What happens to the kids in the story?" "I don't know."

or he answers:

"STAR WARS. I HATE STAR WARS. I don't like all the fighting." "Who was fighting?" "Nobody. It's Star Wars Alphabet."

or he says:

"Some story about a bear whose name begins with a C."

I think he's making friends? Maybe? I'm not sure. In any case, a lovely thing happened. I was asking him about the kids in class, and it came out that there was a boy he hadn't talked to yet that appealed to him. R.J. is his name. He murmured it fervently to me, hiding his face in my arm. "R.J.!" That's who he wanted to be friends with. I didn't know who R.J. was, but then Dave told me he's a little guy with a limp and a withered hand. And then Finn told me a couple of days ago that he'd become friends with R.J. at lunchtime. R.J. sat with him and point-blank asked him if he wanted to be friends, and Finn said "sure". I yelled the story to Dave as Finn relayed it to me, and when I got to the part where Finn accepts, I fucked up the story (of course) and said that Finn had said yes. Finn set me straight. "No," came the adjustment, "I said SURE."

Now, I have no idea if Finn has spoken to or hung out with R.J. since then. I asked him who he played with at morning recess today, and the answer was "A jump rope." He just ran around the playground by himself, dragging a jump rope. And that's what he was doing when I picked him up later in the day. Just playing by himself, as he always is when I pick him up, dragging a jump rope around. He's not with the other kids, he hasn't fallen into a game with anybody, and I can't see R.J. anywhere, or Ian, who seems to have made some tighter friends. But he doesn't seem distressed about it. He's just playing. It's cool. It's at least cool enough.

He told me this morning -- before his triumphant, not-traumatized entry into the classroom on his own steam (!) -- as we were getting him ready for school, "You know, by morning recess I'm usually fine." And he asked me how long it took me to get used to kindergarten. I have no idea how long it took me to get used to kindergarten, but that's totally beside the point, which was that it was time to begin bullshitting. "Let's see. What day of kindergarten is this for you? Day seven? I think it was...yeah. Right around seven days into it." He was satisfied, and breezily continued getting ready.

Tonight we looked at Vogue briefly before bed, and as I sailed past a page, he asked me to go back. I circled back a few pages, and asked what he was looking for. He said, "I thought I saw somebody who looked like R.J." When we determined that R.J. was not featured in this month's Vogue, we turned off the lights and I sang him to sleep.