Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Going to the Faire

"Want to come to the Waldorf Winter Faire with me?" my friend E texted me a couple of weeks ago. Then, because she knows me so well, she added, "Not joking."

Oh, yes. Count me in.

I loaded my two youngest kids in the minivan and drove an hour north. I have been to Washington Waldorf School numerous times, and to my oldest son's Waldorf preschool many-many, but this was the first time I had been to the Waldorf School of Baltimore.

Now, here I will make a confession. I had not been into a Waldorf school since I started writing 'Kingdom' several years ago. I wanted to, but I felt like it would be smarmy to stage a visit to one just to collect material for a book they wouldn't necessarily like. I didn't want anyone to feel deceived or used. And the important thing is, I had been inside them so many times I felt like I was solid on the setting. Boy, was I ever right.

As soon as I walked in, there was a guy playing "Puff the Magic Dragon" on acoustic guitar.

There was yarn, yarn, and more yarn.

The handwork room was a fantasyland for anyone who has ever crafted.

Evidence of hands-on math projects was everywhere, and it was lovely.

Did I mention the yarn?

And it wouldn't be Waldorf if it wasn't all about the gnomes. My sons paid their entry into Gnome Land and received a glittery plastic snowflake as a souvenir.

Oh no, it's Bach's Rescue Remedy... weapon of choice for teachers in a jealous rage.

Main Lesson books were clipped up in hallway displays-- this one is about Cain and Abel. This one seemed particularly apt.

All of the colors, but not black. Black was not allowed. (Actually, there were black crayons to the right of this photo, but a much smaller selection kind of stuffed in at the end. Because it's true-- most schools do not use them in the younger grades.)

Ohhhh, the toys! Be still my heart! If you look at the bottom left edge of this photo, you can see a little blond figurine wearing a painted blue dress-- that is the girl from "The Star Money," the fairy tale that is mentioned several times in 'Kingdom.' I was practically quivering with enchantment-- but restrained myself from buying it. Believe me, WSOB was getting its fair share of cash out of me already.

The daily kindergarten schedule, with healthy and organic snacks listed and a mini nature-table assortment alongside.

I loved seeing this banner. The Winter Faire was done along a Robert Frost theme, so lines from "Stopping in Woods on a Snowy Evening" were on large banners all over the school. Given that I was operating purely by memory when writing 'Kingdom,' I was beyond delighted by how accurate my representations were in the book. There wasn't one moment when I winced and thought, "oh man, I got that part wrong." But when I saw the banners and thought of the one in the book's fictional history classroom-- "Man is both a fallen God and a God in the becoming"-- I was thrilled. It was a detail I had gotten right, and almost by accident.

Since 'Kingdom' was published, I have drifted between an open criticism of Waldorf philosophy and a poignant sense of connection with it. I'm fully aware of so many of its flaws and the areas where it fails to hit the idealistic mark it sets for itself, or that its community sets for it. But I still find it beautiful and appealing, and I'm sorry that I was never able to be more a part of it, for the most part due to money. Being at the school this past weekend served as a reminder to me both that I am an outsider and that I am an admirer, and it's likely that I will always be both of those things and nothing more. Not an enemy, not a member of the community. Just someone who wrote a book.

The Winter Faire, though, was beautiful and enchanting. We had a great time, and I hope to go back to more events in the future. As long as they let me in the door.

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