Friday, January 22, 2010

Seven months and thirty-one days: scheduling concerns

I can't speak for every family at Brandeis Hillel Day School, but at least for our family, a full year of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs has played havoc with our schedules. Imagine a year in which nearly every Saturday is scheduled out. How would that change the way you live your life?

To start, when would you schedule haircuts for your Jawa? Though overall, I'd have to say that the San Francisco I dreamed of for eight years in Seattle doesn't exist, at least a little part of it is real at the Parkview, where our Jawa has gotten his hair cut since his third birthday.

The Parkview is in North Beach, a half block from the apartment we shared when we first came here from Seattle. Those were heady days. We all felt like we'd hit the big time. The fact that our car lived two blocks away from us, behind a locked gate that we needed to open each morning before leaving for work, onlly reinforced our feelings that we had become urban warriors.

That Parkview, on Union Street directly across from Washington Square, was part of that fantasy. A sign in the front window says "Tony is here!" so that everyone wishing to experience San Francisco,circa 1962, doesn't have to work too hard to find out where that can be done.

When we began going to the Parkview, Tony worked one window, Sal the other. That way they could check out the woman as they walked by. A black-and-white photo on the wall shows Tony as a young man, cutting hair while wearing pointy-toed boots. The photo was taken in 1964, Tony once told me.

During those halcyon early days in North Beach, we'd sit in the barber chair together, my knees locked around the squirming, three-year-old Jawa. People walking by would find themselves compelled to stop and watch the impossibly cute tableau unfolding in the barber shop window, which Sal didn't mind, as long as the people who stopped were young women.

Every other patron of the Parkview, it seemed, was a 70-year-old Italian woman. One time, Tony had the Jawa's hair slicked back, ready to cut, when two of the women exploded: "He looks like a mafioso!" they shouted.

We haven't lived in North Beach for nine years. During tha ttime, we've never considered giving up the Parkview and Tony; even though Tony only works Saturdays, which is suddenly a massive inconvenience. How do you fit in haircuts when every Saturday is spoken for?

Right now, the Jawa's hair resembles that of John Lennon during the "Rubber Soul" phase. And yet we are at least a week away from a haircut. Tomorrow, seven months and thirty days to Bar Mitzvah, we will call Tony and see if he's got any space available the following week. If not then, we will wait until February. By then, the Jawa's look will have evolved to where it calls to mind the floppy 'do worn by alt-country superhero Jay Farrar. At times like this, we thank whoever's responsible for sparing our child the Jewfro unwillingly sported by his father at a similar age.

But there is an upside. Sandra Bullock and I are invited to only a handful of the 40-plus Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Since we wisely stopped reproducing at one, this means we have almost every Saturday night free -- with built-in, gratis babysitting, which has not only no cost going for it, but also a happy avoidance of what was become the awkward relationship between a twelve-year-old boy and his babysitter.

So each week, while the Jawa is demoing new dance moves to the get-up-and-boogie sounds of Denon and Doyle, Sandra Bullock and I are out enjoying a guilt-free dinner somewhere, usually accompanied by friends also not invited a Bar Mitzvah.

Tomorrow, for example, the Bat Mitzvah is in Sausalito, across the bridge in Marin County. Since I not-at-all-secretly long to leave the disfunctional chaos of the city for the wilds of the north, any chance to cross that bridge is welcome. Tomorrow we will be joining one-half of our Marin friends The Beautiful Couple for dinner, the other half being perpetually out of town operating her PR firm.

Last Saturday, we crossed the bridge for a friend's birthday party. Two weeks before that, we had dinner in Cow Hollow with the visiting Roger Hunt and his youthful bride.

So we're not complaining. What suffers, though, are the lazy Saturdays, the family outings involving hikes, casual drives and general Bay Area exploration. I work more Sundays than not, so that's out.

As for the Jawa, he's expressed a few concerns. right now, his perfect day involves all-day pajama-wearing and marathon computer, Wii and iPod touch sessions. You can tell the end of a good day by the stack of dishes laying around his room. My son, the homebody.

This year, though, that perfect day has become an untouchable fantasy. Every Saturday, he squeezes into a monkey suit, puts on a tie and heads out at around 9:30. Sometimes we drive, sometimes he's driven.

Then he sits in temple for two-and-a-half hours with at least two of his classmates' parents sitting one row back, eagle-eyed and looking for malcontents. Though we don't have a formal system, I can tell you that every major case of misbehavior has been duly reported to all of the parents in our class within an hour of the conclusions of services.

When he comes back from that, all he wants to do is peel off the formalwear and hang around the house. No hike, no casual drive, no general Bay Area exploration. A few hours later, he has to garb up again and hit the party circuit.

He doesn't complain often. When he does, I tell him that the remarkable thing is that someday, he'll miss all of this. Seventh grade is probably going to mean a lot to these kids. In other settings, seventh grade is just another grade, albeit one fraught with pre-adolescent peril. Add to that 40 or so big-time events, complete with dancing and catering, and you've got something that has to leave a lifelong impression.

And free babysitting, which isn't so bad, either.

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