I am very excited to have Alice Eve Cohen as a guest blogger today! I just finished her book, What I Thought I Knew, and loved it. You will be seeing a review on this from me later today. It was fun to read the story below about Julia now, after reading a little about her as a young girl.
JULIA’S RED DRESS
By Alice Eve Cohen
Hallelujah! I don’t have to apply to schools for my kids this year. Being a New York City parent is a school-application-intensive occupation. Even in the public school system, you have to go through a competitive application process to get a seat for your child in preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school.
My older daughter, Julia, has always had very strong opinions about schools. The defining moment in her school application career came when she was just two years old. I was taking her in her stroller from preschool to preschool, in the hopes of finding a place for her within walking distance of our Upper West Side apartment.
At one of the first schools we visited, the director brought us into her office for the interview.
“Julia, would you show me how you play with these blocks?” she said.
Julia, looking adorable in her new red dress, smiled at the director…Then she pulled off her dress.
I quickly pulled Julia’s dress back on.
The director cleared her throat and repeated, “Julia, would you show me how you play with these blocks?”
Julia smiled at the director… And she pulled her dress off.
Again, I quickly put Julia’s red dress back on.
The director cleared her throat and said, sternly, “Julia, at this preschool, we do not take our clothes off!”
Julia looked at the director… and pulled her dress off.
Needless to say, Julia didn’t go to that preschool.
Two years later. I brought Julia to an interview for a public elementary school for academically gifted children. The room, filled with ambitious parents and children, was vibrating with competition.
“Mommy, I don’t want to go to this school. I want to go to the school near us with the playground.”
“You haven’t seen this school yet,” I said.
“Children in Group B, please line up and follow me,” said a teacher.
“Mommy, I hate this school,” said Julia.
“Julia, just give it a chance.”
“Mommy, if you make me go, I’m gonna have a tantrum.”
“Is your daughter in Group B,” asked the teacher, impatiently.
“Julia, please go with the teacher.”
“I warned you, Mommy.” She lay down and had a tantrum.
“Is your daughter ready to join us?” asked the teacher, looking down at my daughter who was kicking and screaming on the floor.
“Evidently not,” I said.
Needless to say, Julia did not go to that elementary school.
Thirteen years later. Julia was seventeen, and we were looking at colleges. As soon as we arrived at a university in New England, which sounded great on paper, she said, “I hate this school!”
“How do you know? You haven’t even seen it yet,” I said. “Let’s take the tour.” Michael and Eliana played on the lawn, while Julia and I followed the tour guide, an officious professor.
“Let’s leave,” Julia whispered to me, mid-tour.
“Give it a chance,” I whispered back.
Our tour guide led the group into the performing arts building. I was the last one on line, and the door to the building closed and locked just before I got to it. While I waited outside the building, Julia texted me from inside:
“MOM, GET ME OUT OF HERE!”
I called Michael's cell: “Warning! Julia's about to take off her red dress!”
Needless to say, Julia did not go to that university.
Cut to yesterday. Julia is 20. I visited her at college, the same school I went to, to see a play she was in, at the same campus theatre where I did plays when I was an in college. Princeton wasn’t originally one of Julia’s first choices, so it was a huge surprise to me when she decided to go there.
“I’m glad you went to Princeton,” I told her yesterday. “It’s so much easier to visit you here than it would have been if you’d gone to school on the West Coast. And besides,” I added, “I hear Princeton’s a pretty good school.”
“I love this school,” said Julia.
You can also find Alice on Facebook - Alice Eve Cohen and on Twitter - AliceEveCohen.
What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir
Publisher/Publication Date: Penguin, May 2010