Saturday, October 29, 2011

someone else's story

Today thousands and thousands of kids took the NYC specialized high school test.

Mine was one of them. After a morning of anime (emotional comfort food) followed by chocolate chip pancakes paired with a chocolate egg cream (actual comfort food), Iz and I headed downtown in a rare October storm. Sleeting as we headed down into the subway, hail pelting us on the other end, we slogged through slushy streets, past countless black umbrellas towards the test site. Shivering, she agreed to wear my purple scarf, soaking wet, she walked behind me as I tried to shelter her from the driving rain. We slowly walked up the slick steps to the footpath across the west side highway and that was it.

No adults allowed any further.

It was chaos, crowded, steamy and freezing at the same time. She moved ahead, quickly getting lost in the crush and suddenly she wasn't mine anymore. I couldn't help her,support her, protect her. She was heading into the most challenging test of her life completely on her own.

For specialized high schools this test is everything. These scores are the only entrance into these esteemed establishments. One test. 100 questions. 2 and a half hours on a snowy afternoon. GPA's don't count. There are no teacher recommendations, or extra curricular extra credit. Colds or hormones or broken bones don't matter either. Just this one score.

That's what I watched my child dive into, having no idea what to expect on the other side.

The crowd after the test was brutal. Parents crushed together in the freezing rain,umbrellas painfully poking into and backs shoulders as we waited. And waited.

And waited.

As the first couple of kids came out it was like watching celebrities navigating unexpected packs of paparazzi. They looked shell shocked, dazed, after having their brains stretched for hours, suddenly finding themselves thrust into a sea of anxious parents.

Finally, I saw her at the top of the stairs, looking pale and shaken.

I pushed through the crowd, shouting until she saw me. She'd forgotten her umbrella, her favorite black and white houndstooth, and was upset they wouldn't let her back in to get it.

It didn't matter. We could get another. And it didn't matter how she thought she did on the test. It didn't cross my mind to even ask. I was so proud of her, her strength, her poise, her self confidence. Her independence.

It doesn't matter where she goes to school. What does matter is the kind of person she is.

And she is remarkable.

She blew me away today.

But that's nothing new.

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