“You are not going to know everything when you walk in the door. No one does. Remember that” I tell The Beast as I check to make sure she has the map I printed out for her and the voluminous list of cellphone numbers of everyone in the city she may need to contact in case I am abducted by aliens.
It has been a week of new experiences, really new experiences, for The Beast. She has gone from going to a little camp in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania with a bunch of nice, crunchy Quaker kids to a competitive writing workshop at the center of the world and intellectually sparing with kids who are older and come from backgrounds that are far different than the comfortable middle class suburban kids she is used to.
“If you are unsure of something—ask.” I tell the child as I tuck an emergency $20 in her pocket.
I guess like everyone--It is just before an event that I always have my greatest doubts. “ Is this too much for her? What if she hates it and hates me?” I think as I put extra money on her Metrocard.
She comes back to me in the lobby of the building. “ I am scared...everyone will be older than I am. “
“You will be fine. You will have a great time. I promise. Just remember to ask questions.” I said making sure she had tissues in her bag.
I met The Beast at the Starbucks a few blocks away 5 hours later. I had my sister by my side for moral support in case there were tears. But The Beast was bubbling over with the energy of a new found passion. She loved it. She loved the other kids, she loved the writing, she loved the “literary excursion” to a gallery and she loved the teachers.
Yes—she said that she felt like the young country bumpkin from upstate NY, but they accepted her. She said she had questions and she got answers. She looked and sounded grown-up. It was heartbreaking for me.
We walk down the bustling, beautiful streets of SoHo toward the subway and I breathe a sigh of relief. It is true what a teacher told me once—life is an open book test—you just need to be brave and ask the questions to get the answers.