Last week I attended the year’s first fundraiser for Helena’s school. Being that she’s in kindergarten, the auction at a nice neighborhood restaurant was the first such event I’ve attended. Ours is a small charter school housed in a building once serving the film industry, but now painted bright primary colors, and from what I can tell, run by dedicated and enthusiastic educators. If you live in New York City, you know how winning the lottery-based charter system can make you feel like, well, you won the lottery.
I expected to have a fine time – after all, I’m one to jump at any occasion that gets me out of the house on a school night, especially if it will indirectly benefit the future of America’s youth. Especially if it indirectly benefits my child’s chances of becoming a wildly successful adult. And a roomful of mostly strangers is always a comfortable scenario for me. As I like to say – I can talk to a goddamn wall.
Parents and educators attended in cocktail attire. Everyone made efforts to welcome new faces. I became friendly with a few parents I expect to hang out with outside of school. Chatted with the director and a teacher. Many parents seemed to have known each other a long time. They did not exclude. I became even more secure in my sense that this was the right place for my daughter. For my family.
The bidding started. Enthusiastic PTA moms took turns auctioning off an impressive list of donations. Rounds of cheers and applause met the final bids.
“A week at summer day camp!” hollered the auctioneer. “Can I get $550? Your children will thank you!”
“A Toys R Us gift certificate! Parents – can we get $150? $175 Your children will thank you!”
“Ladies and gentlemen – a lovely Coach purse! $440? Can I get $450? Your children will thank you!”
Laughs and cheers and applause. All around was a happy crowd. They were good people. Nice people. Smart and cool people. People who form a community my children and I are now part of. I felt very happy and fortunate sitting among my new friends. I also felt a little sad.
Yes, there were many couples there. And I suspect many of the moms had left their husbands at home with the kids. But aside from being an outsider by way of marital status, I just felt sad to be alone. That event marked for me the beginning of an important chapter in my family’s life. I would have liked to have gone home with a partner on that frigid Wednesday in November. On the car ride home I would have said how glad I am that our daughter goes to that school. When we took turns brushing our teeth there may have been an unspoken, shared excitement for the new friends we met. There would have been a sense of a new beginning. Another seedling sprouting in the life that we would nurture. Nurture together.Instead, a mom with a minivan offered a couple of us rides. I gladly accepted, continuing the conversation and get-to-know-yous all the way. And when we reached my apartment, I thanked her and I went home.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.