So yesterday was a pivotal day for Superman.
He graduated from Polish School Kindergarten.
It was a momentous occassion for us, because it marked three years of whining and crying and begging not to have to go to Saturday school, which of course we ignored.
Because it’s tradition, Dammit.
You see, I am a veteren of Polish school myself, as is my younger sister.
We spent the bulk of our childhood dreading the weekend because it just meant that instead of sleeping in we would be awakened by the shrill voice of our mother alerting us to the fact that we had ten minutes to get our asses to the breakfast table before we were driven to the most miserable place on earth: Polish School.
Please. Try and keep up with me if you will.
Our American Counterparts couldn’t wait for Saturdays because they knew it meant morning cartoons and sugar drenched cereal eaten on the couch (probably with a friend who had spent the night before which is a whole other level of childhood pain that I can’t get into right now) where they were free to become useless zombies for the day.
We shuffled our feet towards the bus each Friday afternoon because we knew what we were in for the next day; early breakfast which consisted of rye bread, some sort of sardine/cream cheese spread, and boiling tea. Because if you drank anything below boiling temperature you were subjecting yourself to pnuemonia. After our meal, we endured a fifteen minute drive to Polish church. Once we arrived, our parents would cheerfully shove us out of the car and leave us there for six hours. We were allowed to speak only Polish during school hours, and our teachers were strict ladies who disliked acid washed denim jeans because they weren’t “classy” and who smoked like chimneys during the breaks.
We learned obscure poetry and read about our country’s horrific and painful history. We memorized the Polish alphabet and learned to write in that Eastern European scrawl that is so beautiful but impossible to decipher. We studied our ancestors and quickly realized that ours was not the longest last name in all the world.
We made grammatical errors and played silly children’s games that were inapporpriate for our age group. We cooked and read and whispered in forbidden English when the teacher wasn’t paying attention. We did things that we wouldn’t be caught dead doing in our American school. We were living two lives, and it was exhausting.
We were freakin miserable
And I am so happy that I am passing this misery on to my son. It’s one of the smartest things I have done as his mother and I know he’s going to hate me for it for a really really long time.
Which is exactly what I expect him to do.
It’s all part of the plan, you see.
Because Polish school was also the place where my cultural roots were nurtured and watered and fed. It was the one place where lunchtime was not stressful because all of our sandwiches had Polish sausuage in it with soggy tomatoes. The church hall was the stinkiest cafeteria in the greater Los Angeles area and no one thought anything of it. The people we went to Polish school with were our brothers and sisters (unless we had a crush on someone, because then that would be considered incestous and wrong and Polish people as a whole do not promote those kinds of relationships). We shared more than just our stinky sandwiches. We shared the same confusion about how to balance our Polish-American backgrounds and why our parents spoke with that ridiculous slavic accents. I mean, how hard is it to say Vegetable???!
We compared notes on our American friends and how no one bothered to pronounce our last names correctly. We felt a comraderie that is hard to describe to someone who does not feel a sense of belonging in two different worlds at the same time. Polish jokes were safe in the halls of our little church property and no one felt defensive or weak or ashamed about where they had come from. It was at once a pain in the ass and a reprieve from the Monday-Friday American grind.
A necessary evil, if you will.
And so, it is my duty, as a mother, as a Polish-American mother, to drag my son out of bed each Saturday and revel in his whines and protest, knowing that the gift I am giving him will keep on giving long after he stops kicking his way to the car and begging me to let him stay home “just this one time, pleeeeeaaaase!”
So Congratulations Superman.
On completing Polish Kindergarten.
You have until September 26th, to live it up, American style.
And then it’s on to First Grade. Where I think you will learn the Polish National Anthem and study the autobiography of Tadeusz Kosciousko, who was born in a small village by the name of Mereczowszczyzna.
Until then, enjoy your Saturday Morning Honey Nut Cheerios and Spongebob Squarepants Marathon.
You’ve earned it.