Fr. Miguel sang those lyrics at our annual mass for those who died in the previous year. It's from "Rent". How do you measure a year? My aunt was among them and I was there for her and I was there because I played a small part in the liturgy. The idea got caught up in my head: how do you measure a year?
This is not going to be a poignant essay on time and moments.
I had a meeting on Sunday, a meeting I didn't call, a meeting I almost didn't go to because I've already made up my mind. But the woman calling the meeting is one of my girl scout moms and so supportive of everything I do. And the invite list was interesting. It included folks I knew were disgruntled parents, but also the woman I called out in public as being the bottleneck on getting the middle school started at our school back so long ago when I was still part of things. I smiled at her name: politics do indeed make strange bedfellows.
I thought about my time at this school and all the strife and heartache along the road to getting where we are. How we all look at each other and see the layers of history and hurt and anger instead of encountering each other on a level field. Well, here was my chance.
There were four of us, all told, and I wasn't the angriest, which was interesting. The other two women besides myself and the girl scout mom who invited me were important folks at the school. Educated women with strong opinions about what their children's schools should look like. And we talked louder and louder over each other, agreeing and adding to the conversation and, at least for me, being stunned by how very much we saw things the same way, how we had so much intertwined in common. I told them about Fiona's latest difficulties. They shared about their children. And we got really pissed about the administration.
The mom who called the event wrapped things up by saying what we really need is a functioning PTA. I think the three other people around that table know that's not enough. And I've already failed to start a PTA at the school twice now. I will not try again. But that's her goal and I'll support her while I move on to other challenges, other communities.
I admitted that we were moving on, and that this was essentially my only method of revolt left: they don't replace students after 2nd grade and Fiona will be a missing hole in their rolls, and therefore in their funding, for two years. If I keep Daisy there to finish up 3rd grade with, frankly, the best teacher I've ever worked with, and then pull her? Five years of empty desks and funding. I asked, as I was putting my coat on, if any of them knew how much state and federal funding per year, per student, it was now.
"Eighty five hundred dollars," one of them said, emphasizing each number.
Another way to measure a year. Not how I would, but I know it's how some folks do. It's not why I'm leaving, it's not that I want revenge. But it may come to that sort of reminder, on my part, on many parents' parts, to wake them up and realize a year really is more than eighty five hundred dollars.
Because it is far more than that.