There’s a moment in the life of every New Paltz parent when you realize you just aren’t on the scene any more. You have passed from recognition and relevance in this family-fired town, cut loose from all support systems and it-takes-a-village load-sharing. No more deposits or withdrawals from the bank of goodwill and favors. No more friendships formed, affinities and antipathies recognized amidst the four-season electric crisis of young children.
It is shocking how quickly you are effaced, even when you are the husband of a (now retired) wildly popular elementary school teacher in the district. It was ten years ago when I first noticed that the crowd at Water Street Market summer events had turned over completely. Every last adult there looked familiar to me, by type, age, and demographic. Mark and Jen, Joomi and Devin, Leslie and Paula. And all the kids, names on the tip of my tongue.
I could have sworn I’d been in their basement family rooms, soothing and straitjacketing my issue in the midst of its lurid meltdown, but they are not who I thought they were. The names, and gradually all the cultural coordinates as well, had all changed. They don’t know me. I didn’t belong.
My time came prematurely for two reasons. First, we only have the one. Second, we pulled the one out of the district before high school and thus rather estranged ourselves from the generation of families we had belonged to.
And it’s all to the good. My child is 23 and crossing an international border as I write this. I am half-baking some crazy late-life plans for the peak time that remains. As Sting once said in a real English accent of the effects of extreme yoga and veganism on his well-being, “I’m getting younger.” Those fit dads in their forties can’t even taste it yet. They have miles and miles to go.