Growing up and even into my early adulthood I was raised under the illusion that I lived in a free and democratic society. When my children first entered the American educational system, I was swiftly disabused of that notion. It wasn’t the nation’s educational system, per say, that led to the abrupt and jarring confiscation of freedoms. It was something else. Something more authoritative and potent – the PTA.
The PTA where I live is so extraordinary that they have granted themselves a special name, a name more befitting their exceptional greatness. I can’t tell you what it is exactly because I fear for my life, but I can tell you we (because membership is enforced) are a community.
We are a community because a community is unassailable. A community is, by its very definition, a wonderful, loving, caring place, a nirvana comprised of committed and concerned individuals working together for the common good.
Except when you raise a differing opinion. Then you must be silenced.
This group is not nor ever shall be referred to as the PTA. The PTA is a lowly, pedestrian term for a lowly, pedestrian group. Not us.
Which brings me to Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day at my kids’ school can never simply be Valentine’s Day. It must be more. Because we are more.
This moreness, as it relates to Valentine’s Day, developed as a natural progression out of a particular problem the school faced a while back. The problem didn’t stem from Valentine’s Day – it originated, I believe, from birthday celebrations – but it had a explosive domino effect.
Several years ago a few unhappy individuals who I take to be influential in the Non-PTA PTA were dissatisfied with the snack levels they found in the schools. They brought their complaints to the administration, and the administration, stripped of its own decision-making powers, followed the dictates the Non-PTA PTA. As a cover for the fact that the ruling was to placate the preference of a select few, the administration included food allergies in the new law and decreed all outside food banned from classrooms.
While I found the measure to be a bit draconian and somewhat unwarranted particularly given the backroom nature of the dealings, I was just as happy to be unshackled from baking 29 cupcakes on a weekday night and somehow carting them all into school the next day intact. I was free, and I was happy.
But the Non-PTA PTA had other plans. Having the children go without a wonderful and memorable school birthday celebration was unthinkable. It was heartbreaking and cruel for little Storm or Kendall to not be celebrated by their classmates. And the Non-PTA PTA, never content to leave well enough alone, put their heads together to devise a plan. And they came up with an even better solution.
Instead of bringing in cupcakes, the children would now bring in little gifts for every child in class. With this measure, parents became obligated to bring in goodies for the entire class in addition to the four million goodie bags they had to purchase for their child’s actual birthday party. Note to Non-PTA PTA: If I wanted to give every kid in class a goodie bag I would have invited them to the party.
Then, for a while, things settled down. Seemingly, we had survived the worst of the fallout. Until, that is, the first holiday to fall under the new law rolled around.
Since the children were no longer permitted to eat communal party snacks and instead only allowed to eat snacks provided by their own parents, the Non-PTA PTA had to do some fast thinking to remedy the situation. And, they did. With detailed planning and a little foresight, they were once again able to take corrective measures.
For all holidays the Non-PTA PTA took it upon themselves to send home holiday-themed goodie bags for parents to fill with a special holiday treat of their choice for Kendall or Storm as well as a coordinated cut-out note card (in this case heart-shaped), which is to be used to write a special hand-written note of love to remind their precious child just how special and wonderful they really are.
Note to Non-PTA PTA: If I want to send in a special snack and/or write my kid a note I will do so, thanks.
And this is how the holidays are celebrated under a dictatorial regime.
I wonder what Valentine’s Day is like in North Korea.