To: Graduation Committee. Re: “R U Attending?”

21 May 2010

Dear Committee: Let me tell you a story.

Around 15 years ago, my wife and I began the process of adopting our first child from the Department of Social Services. He was 2 months old, and came “Legal Risk,” meaning that the adoption was being contested, and basically we were more or less foster parents, or “three hots and a cot,” as I liked to call it. DSS, the birth mother, and their lawyers went through several trials, and appeals, and appeals of appeals (none of which included us), and there was a steady stream of social workers visiting our house.

I also had to drop the baby off every week at the local DSS office for parental visits. The drop-off took place in a supermarket parking lot. I’d pull into a spot and wait, and after a while the social worker would pull in next to me, and I’d make the delivery. Then, I’d drink coffee at a local diner for an hour, after which time I’d drive back to the supermarket and recover the baby. Usually, he was cranky and exhausted.

The baby could have been taken from us, without warning or excuse, at any time.

This went on for 3 years. We accumulated a lot of baby furniture from our own families, as well as books, toys, and clothes—gifts from other relatives and friends. The kid had a lot of stuff. But, during the 2nd year, we realized that he didn’t have a high chair. (He was pretty big, and feeding him in our laps was getting uncomfortable, not to mention messy.) So, we went shopping, and came home with a $75 piece of plastic faith from Graco.

I was terrified of that high chair for 8 months. Until, that is, all the trials, appeals, and appeals of appeals had run their courses, and the adoption was finalized on a cold but sunny morning sometime around Thanksgiving.

Anyway, sorry I didn’t get back to you earlier. I just met with my EN102 students for the last time this semester, and on my way back to the office I was hailed by a student of mine from last year. I didn’t recognize her at first. She used to be a bit nervous and awkward, and I remember she had just been elected president of some kind of social group, and had to deliver a speech. I spent a lot of extra time helping her get ready. This morning, she was radiant. Hell, she was positively glowing! It seems she had just come back from speaking in NYC and was getting ready to go to California for a big convention. It was wonderful.

Then I got back to the Adjunct Office, and found this email from the college:

“Thank you for sending us your summer schedule. Unfortunately, we have no available sections at any of our campuses at this time. Please try again in the Fall.”

Therefore, if you’d like me to help swell the numbers at graduation, please find the attached Invoice, which covers:

  • $100 “teaching time” (since I assume the whole ceremony will take up about 4 hours)
  • gas money, at $3.09/gallon, for the 80-mile round trip
  • tolls for the NY State Thruway
  • meals

I’ll spring for my own coffee. I figure the small emotional thrill I’ll get from watching some of my students graduate is worth at least $2.97.

But I absolutely refuse to buy another high chair.



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