Unexpected meet-up.

On Monday night, I drove across the Delaware and into Princeton, NJ to have dinner with Susan Wise Bauer and a small cluster of homeschooling women who hang out at her message board. This is by far the furthest thing I ever imagined myself doing as a homeschooling parent, but I was perusing the WTM message boards one day and saw her invitation to meet up for dinner before she gave a small lecture on her new book, and I thought: What the hell? Why not. So, I said I’d go, and then spent the next 5 days trying to talk myself out of it.

First of all, the majority of people over at the WTM message boards have radically different political and religious beliefs than me. I’m pro-choice; they’re not. I’m voting for Obama; they’re exchanging cookie recipes with Palin. I’m homeschooling for my kids; they’re homeschooling for Jesus. I believe in evolution; they think I’m damned. You know… just a few minor differences like that.

I said to myself, for days afterwards: WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING? THESE ARE NOT YOUR PEOPLE. THEY WILL EAT YOU FOR LUNCH AND SPIT OUT THE BONES AND THEN PICK THEIR TEETH WITH WHAT’S LEFT OF YOUR RIBCAGE, IGNORING ALL THE WHILE THE AMAZING SIMILARITIES OF YOUR SKELETAL STRUCTURE WITH THAT OF THE GREAT APES, RENDERING YOUR UNTIMELY DEMISE USELESS…AND THEN YOU WON’T GET TO VOTE FOR OBAMA. AND THAT’S HOW THEY GET YOU.

But even aside from all that, the meeting place was surreal as well. Dinner was at restaurant in Palmer Square and then the lecture was at the Princeton Public Library. And, all’s I’m sayin’ is: I spent the grade school years of my childhood running up and down Nassau Street, through Palmer Square, down to the library, and back again. RegularSis and I used to hang out at the Gallup Poll where our mom worked. We’d help stuff envelopes, disrupt meetings, play with the automatic stampers, and then run out to Polly’s Fine Candy for swedish fish, licorice whips, red hot dollars, and whatever else they had that I can’t remember anymore. We’d go back to the office with our candy and hide out in the back room where they kept all the old filing cabinets and spin endlessly on half-broken office chairs until one of the Gallup brothers came to find us and tell us it was time to go home.

I hadn’t been back there in years, but it was still sort of MY TURF, if you know what I mean, and even though I just painted a lovely little Norman Rockwell type scene up there, most of the memories of those years in my childhood are dark and difficult. Going back to Princeton was something I’d always imagined myself doing while holding my therapist’s hand and talking into one of those mini tape recorders. But instead, I’d managed to arrange this little trip down memory lane to coincide with a meeting with the woman who wrote the homeschooling book I use as a starting point and a bunch of her groupies. Which makes me yet another groupie, doesn’t it.

HOW do I get myself into these things?

Anyway. So I went. I got myself an extra large vanilla latte (caffeinated for the nighttime drive) and headed across the river and found the library even though they’d moved it to a completely different building. I managed to park the car and got out, and immediately knew where I was even though I’d never been there before. I found a small group of women standing in front of the restaurant and gave them that Raised Eyebrow Questioning Look, and asked if they were from the WTM boards, and the said yes, and then began the surreal experience of having to introduce yourself by your screen name instead of your real name. I got a couple of second looks when I said “RegularMom” – probably because of the frog…he does sort of stand out, doesn’t he? Or maybe it’s because they knew I’M NOT A REPUBLICAN. We liberals smell funny, you know. One can always tell.

Pretty soon, Susan arrived and we all went into the restaurant and got a table and ordered food and ate it, and we talked about homeschooling, and Susan signed my books for me, and it turns out that my copy of the Art of the Public Grovel  was the first one she’d ever actually signed, which was pretty cool, but it’s not like confetti fell from the sky or anything. Still, I’ve got the first signed copy of that book. And I’ll always have that story to tell to my grandkids someday, hopefully when they’re all teenagers and getting ready for an important date and wishing I hadn’t dropped by unexpectedly.  

And as for all my fears about the Republicans, well it turns out that there are Republicans out there who are actually really very nice people. Seriously. We all even talked about the politics thing — how the political posts over at the WTM message boards have become this hotbed of insanity, and how funny it is that we can all still get along on the homeschooling front. And then another liberal did show up a little late, so I wasn’t the only one, and I didn’t feel too freaked out, and we had Just A Lovely Evening Together. After dinner, we all went to listen to Susan talk about her new book, and it was a good time.

The only really strange thing about the evening, other than the fact that I actually attended in the first place, was how hard it was for me to stay with one topic. I’d be listening in to one side of the table, and I’d start to respond, but then I’d hear something on the other side of the table and my attention would shift. I guess in my mind, I somehow thought I’d be able to come right back to the first conversation and pick up where I left off, as if I were sitting there on the message board instead face-to-face with them. This is surely some new pitfall of modern dialogue — one that deserves a lot more thought than I’m willing to give it right now, considering how late it is, and considering the fact that I’m only just now getting the house back into some semblance of order. One evening out — and I’m somehow four days behind in laundry and dishes, and just getting the schoolwork done is taking every ounce of everything I’ve got.

So, that was my night out. Nights out have become a bit of rarity for me these days. But I’m quickly approaching a time in my life when staying home doesn’t bother me all that much. Now you know why.

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8 Responses to “Unexpected meet-up.”


  1. 1 rae October 9, 2008 at 7:46 am

    Wow. You are a social animal, I tell you. SWB? Wow.

    Seriously, that must have been one of those outings that required all the fortitude you could muster. I am a SOTW girl too, but I would have felt ….. apprehensive. What a great opportunity for you, and kudos to you for the ginormous step outside the left-leaning comfort zone.

    Oh yeah…. and YAY!

  2. 2 Shawna October 9, 2008 at 8:46 am

    That sounds like a terrific night. I’m glad you got out of there alive. I thought they would at least keep you tied up until after the election. At least that was in my republican handbook when I joined long ago… 🙂

  3. 3 RegularMom October 9, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Shawna, LOL! I guess they left their handbooks at home. 🙂

    And, hey Rae! That’s all. I just like saying “hey, Rae” ‘cuz it rhymes. 🙂

  4. 4 Fairly Odd Mother October 9, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    That whole hopping from convo to convo thing? Yeah, I do that too.

    Dinner sounds pretty cool and I’m glad you made it out in one piece and can still vote. Loved the Palin–cookie recipes comment.

  5. 5 Katherine October 10, 2008 at 8:06 am

    How interesting. You were, like totally, all up in a historic hot bed of homeschooling happeningnessishness. Hum, I fumbled that last word. What I mean is: Susan Wise Bauer is an icon and will stand in history and be studied when people look back at the phenomenon of homeschool. And You Were There. cool. 🙂

  6. 6 Karisma October 13, 2008 at 1:24 am

    Wow Regularmom, you are so brave! Im not sure if I would have risked it! LOL! I did however invite someone of a homeschool board down here to visit me last week! (luckily she turned out to be alright!)

  7. 7 Gail October 16, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    That’s so funny about skipping from conversation to conversation. I’d want to do that, too. I’d want to have a little email *ping* to notify me that someone had just replied to the comment I’d made in conversation A while I was making a comment in conversation B.

    Also, I would’ve referred to my kids as the DeeDees and Rick as the Dee Aitch. No fake, I sometimes find myself drifting into that in normal conversation, let alone with people I know from a forum (not that I’ve ever met anyone from a forum).

  8. 8 Mom #1 October 22, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Wow. I didn’t know you went. I would have been too much of a scaredy cat to go. I have an awkward-out-of-place-I-want-to-stand-out-but-don’t-look-directly-at-me kind of personality going on, LOL.

    I’m glad you had fun! What’s next? RegularMom, the series?


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