Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The bean trees

WonderGirl's school held a silent auction this weekend. I'm not clear on whether this is a widespread practice, or if it's just incredibly popular in our town, but all of the private schools/daycares/after school clubs/people who just met yesterday but are BFF! have these gigantic spring fundraisers. The parents run around town, jockeying for donations from local businesses; the auction committee spends an impressive amount of time hanging curtains in the school's multipurpose room to hide the fact that ductwork and/or electrical boxes exist; the students Do Artwork to sell.

WonderGirl's class made a suprisingly beautiful series of seasonal trees out of beans. The Great Northern, the adzuki, the pinto, they were all represented. The spring tree had what I think were supposed to be dogwood blooms, but with five petals instead of four (guess someone at the Quaker school isn't up on their Christ symbolism). The winter tree had a thin layer of snow on the branches, which means the kids were feeling especially creative given the local weather, and the sky was a striking orange - nuclear winter? In any case, the trees were large, nicely framed, and definitely on a different level than the combination of handprints and Pollock-inspired dripping that I'd seen at the auction at WonderGirl's previous preschool. Just thinking about all the tiny fingers, meticulously gluing each of the thousands of beans, was a bit overwhelming for me. I warned WonderGirl ahead of time that it was unlikely we'd be able to buy the trees at the auction, because I'd assumed they'd be sold as a set and I'd heard another mom say that she was prepared to spend up to $300 for them. Our budget doesn't include $300 for beans.

I had no idea what was coming.

It turned out the trees were to be auctioned separately. I let myself hope a bit; there are fifteen families in the class, four trees, how many people really want to hang beans in their houses? The first tree went for $400. It didn't improve from there. Those trees brought in $1700 for the school.

I know that there are families at WonderGirl's school with extra money; I know the school needs big fundraisers to maintain its focus on providing an exceptional amount of financial aid and economic diversity in the student body. I know these things, but it was still startling to be there. We wrote our smallish check for the items we won, and came home to ponder the only beans in our house. The wet ones, in cans.

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