Light Out For the Territory, Newsletter Excerpt

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At the end of Huckleberry Finn, Huck says, “But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can’t stand it. I’ve been there before.” Rather than deal with middle class family life with regular meal times, church, and school, Huck would rather float down the Mississippi River on a raft. Civilization, Twain thought, was a mixed bag. Sometimes, life is better on a raft.
 
This week, we’ve learned that the upcoming school year will be mishmash of in-person classes, live classes, recorded classes, and worksheets. The plan for my high school kid is so complicated that I can’t understand how it will work. For a kid on the autistic spectrum who craves order and routine, this is a nightmare scenario. 
 
I’m starting to set up my own shadow system for him with tutors and private tutoring centers, like Kumon and Sylvan. He’ll need that contact with real people. Also, I just can’t understand how any student can learn a full year’s worth of Algebra or History with only 1/5th of the instruction. If the infection rates spike up or the teachers go on strike, all bets are off; the tutors might be all that we have. 
 
Jonah’s heading off to a decimated college in a couple of weeks. All of his classes will be online. He’s moving into a private, off-campus dorm. It’s a health risk, I know, and it’s crazy to spend money on a dorm for an empty college campus. But we decided that his social-emotional health outweighes other factors, so off he goes. I’m just thankful that he has another three semesters, before he graduates and has to find a job in a terrible economy. 
 
When things went off the rails in March, who thought that we would still be in this boat six months later? Basic social and political institutions, like schools and churches, are hovering on life support. In the background, there are heated political protests, urban unrest, and vague threats of delayed elections. I am deeply concerned about this fall. 
 
I can worry so much about “sivilization” that my stomach hurts, or I can run away. For August at least, I choose flight. 
 
All summer, we have been taking the boys on local adventures on weekends. Last week, we went to New York Botanical Gardens and Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, coming home with a box of fresh ravioli, broccoli rabe sausage, and two pounds of fresh biscotti. In the past few weeks, we hiked in Jersey and upstate New York, swam in a mountain lake and beaches, eaten in outdoor cafes in Hoboken and coastal villages in Delaware
 
Later this month, we’ll pack up the car for a week long adventure in the CatskillsLake George, and Vermont. With our camping gear and folding chairs strapped to the roof of the Subaru, we’ll stay in each place for two days before moving on. We’re visiting some old haunts, like the bar carved into the side of the granite of Lake George and the tiny graveyard in a field in Vermont with Steve’s ancestors. And hopefully, we will find new places and meet new quirky people. 
 
I need to escape badly from the color-coded list of chores on my desk, fear over the future for the kids, guilt that often I choose my own work over their needs, guilt that I’m not working enough, and demands for free labor from their schools. Some of us are carrying the burden of maintaining “sivilization,” but for a while, it won’t be me. 
 
I’m floating on a raft with my favorite people, adrift through the chaos on the banks of the river