I am wealthy. I am famous. I’m a diplomat, a high-flying executive, a prince, a king. I’m Johnny Depp, J.K. Rowling and Ted Turner.
I am all of these – and more.
At least I was in my brief and wondrous life as a celebrity.
It happened like this. My five-year-old son a few months ago entered midyear into a new school in Buenos Aires and his new classmates thought it was cool. My son speaks better English than Spanish – and he comes with his own teacher, who helps him and works with the regular teacher.
His own teacher? My oh my, what can this mean? the mothers asked each other, flapping in anticipation of catching a glimpse of this new student and becoming chummy with his parents. Roll out the red carpet. This is swell news. A rock star. Or a Hollywood actor. A diplomat! They may have a castle in Scotland. Or a mansion in Hollywood. The boy needs his own teacher because… “I know, I know!,” a stammering mother shouts triumphantly. “He needs a bodyguard.” Yup, a bodyguard to protect him because he’s a prime target for kidnappers out for a big ransom. And he’s at our school. What luck! Think about the prospects for our children. They’ll mingle with the son of a celebrity. Oh, the parties and the balls they will go to. And us too! What luck to frolic with a celebrity.
The anticipation of the mothers swelled as the days approached for my son to make his first appearance. And the day arrived. The glorious day at last. Here he comes! Here he comes! My son walked through the flock of gleeful mothers fluttering to catch sight of his light-brown locks and the smattering of freckles on his cheeks and nose. They peered on and calculated their luck and their advance in society. Look at him. He’s marvelous, absolutely marvelous.
But what’s this, what’s this? What’s this that you’re telling me? No! It can’t be so. You don’t say. This is not good. This is bad. What dreadful news you are telling me. The boy is disabled? He has autism. That’s not right. That’s not good. He can’t be in our class, he can’t be with our children. I won’t stand for this. Get the principal on the phone. Call a meeting. This boy may bring down the standards. He may be a bother, he may be a nuisance, he may be trouble. His odd manners could rub off on our children. He’ll cost our sons and daughters their chances for a scholarship, their spot at Harvard and their wealthy careers in business, law and medicine. He mustn’t sit next to my daughter. He mustn’t! Not over my dead body! Quick, call a meeting, we must group together and raise a stink. We must keep him out. Get the sticks and light them on fire. We’ll storm the principal’s office to stop this atrocity, this blight, this abnormality.
The principal and the teachers, admirably, were quick to douse the flare-up and they told the protesters to back off. The school stood by its decision on integration, one of the few in Buenos Aires. Now my son is thriving with his new friends. He goes to play at their houses; they come to our house. He plays soccer every Tuesday. He’s blending in. Even some of the kids at first banned from mixing with him say hello and smile at my son even as their mothers scrunch their faces and look the other way with a big “humph!”
Tell you more?
I’ve got something. And it’s not off the gossip grapevine. It’s real. It’s tangible. Listen up. A girl who was barred by her mother from sitting next to my son has, well, she has drawn a lovely picture for my son. It’s a picture of him and her standing next to each other in a garden, smiling brightly and with their hands almost touching. She’s written his name and her name above each of the figures.
It’s great, it’s awesome and it’s totally real.