I am such a sap for Aesop.
He’s like wisdom in a can. Real simple. To the point. With a whiff of truth.
His skinny books were all over my childhood … and all over my house. My first recollection is of “The Tortoise and the Hare” because … I think … it was actually my mother’s favorite. And I’d get my precious four or five minutes of lap time … with her … all to myself.
With five brothers, five minutes is a big-time win. And she would half-whisper to me as she read … as though it was our secret. The memory is with me still. And so is her voice.
You remember the fable … the super-slow but determined tortoise bests the confident and advantaged hare. The tale’s supplied us with pithy adages like … “The race is not always to the swift” … and “Slow and steady wins the race.” Taken-for-granted lessons that are not followed often enough.
Except in one place I’ve come to know very well.
I live in a very peculiar bit of geography. A decade ago, I moved just a mile away … to Port Chester … an evolving, eclectic village wedged in between lots of affluence … along New York’s Long Island Sound. A straight run to New York City … and a new hot-spot for the millennials.
It’s a modest, middle class community surrounded by three towns that are absolutely rich. Really rich. As in loaded.
And that’s not their only advantage.
Those communities are small, homogeneous, and upper middle class. The homes are extra-expensive … and extra-lovely. The schools are nationally ranked and families have long established traditions of higher education.
College isn’t the debate … where is the debate.
Their children go to the most desired colleges in the country … the big-buck schools. And they all prepare for careers in the professional world. They have to work very hard to screw it all up.
I know this because I used to lived there. For thirty years. My sons went to those schools. And then those favored colleges. And now they have wonderful lives.
They were the hares. And I was the sire … in rabbit-speak.
Now I live with the tortoises.
My new village is more populated than its wealthy neighbors … and more mixed … more heterogeneous. The homes are neat and tidy, but not as expensive. Old-timers blend in with lots of new arrivers who are marginally skilled, blue collars sorts. Lots struggle with the language … and their kids will be the first in their families to ever graduate high school … and move on to college.
They might not go to pricey, top tier colleges. But they’ll go. And they’ll graduate. Mostly because Port Chester teachers had their hands on their shoulders since they first heard the tale of the Tortoise and the Hare.
So … these kids will finish up their real preparations for real life … in real careers with real demand … and real futures.
And so the fable comes to life.
Not long ago, I motored to my old town … to watch my grandson play fall baseball. His high school is nationally ranked … every kid on his team is college bound … without a doubt. His own father … my son … went to those schools. Now he’s an MD/PhD at NYU.
They’re all rabbits.
So, there I am … at the field … in the morning sunshine … armed with a ridiculously large coffee … sitting next to my doctor-son and … BOOM! … the turtles shows up. In the newspaper.
Yup. The Port Chester tortoises.
The paper is called the Westmore News … and it’s almost never more than two dozen pages. It’s the quintessential, small town news-journal … spotlights high schools sports, local politics and issues … and even sends out birthday wishes to some embarrassed villagers.
The inside page features PEOPLE: Facts of Life … a to-the-point column that mentions engagements or weddings … or who made the Dean’s list … or graduated from here or there.
And there it is … in the newspaper. The fable. In real life.
A long list of Port Chester tortoises who’ve graduated from a local college … some with associate degrees … others with bachelors. Brenda Avalos, Griselda Cruz, Marien Osegura, Brittany Robert, Teresa Ramon, Rafael Sanchez Garcia, Shevante Scott … and lots more. No blue-bloods there. Just tortoises.
And these determined kids have determined what’s smart for their futures. They chose serious majors … accounting, applied science in medical assisting, hospitality management, computer information systems, business administration, and bakery and pastry arts.
So these tortoises … from the gutty village of Port Chester … will finish real preparations for real careers that are in real demand … and with real futures.
And there I am … laughing out-loud … nudging my groggy son to read the piece … to enjoy the new twist on the old fable. To prove again that slow and steady can take anyone … from any background … to any place.
for … Jennifer Carriero-Dominguez and the Port Chester teachers.
Layout & Photo Credit: Darcy Smithson DuVall
“I am such a sap for sweet stories with seriously sweet endings. Is this a great tale or what?” https://m.facebook.com/notes/darcy-smithson-duvall/i-am-such-a-sap-for-aesop/360322971085680/