Here we were. Day 1 at Sebastian’s new gan (preschool). I had finally gotten through yo-yoing around the various municipality offices to register him. And we were off on our five- minute walk to the neighborhood school.
I was excited: the spell of new beginnings. I entertained the thought of his new ganenet (preschool teacher) greeting us cheerfully, showing us around and offering us a tour of the class, and discussing heartily and proudly their teaching philosophy and pedagogical approach. After all, this is how Mr. Todd at the New College Child Center, I am sure, would have done it.
We walk in to one of the classes. The ganenet is indeed cheerful and kind, but after several minutes, sends us over to the other class next-door. We walk in a second time. We search out the ganenet and find a frazzled young woman, distracted, engaged in talk with other parents. We delicately introduce ourselves and are soon thereafter relegated to the corner while we wait. His name is not on the list. Is he registered? Yes I’ll get to you in a minute, just a few more minutes… Meanwhile, Sebastian is playing in the toy kitchen in the corner, seemingly oblivious to our well-disguised disgruntlement. Another brief strech of interaction: What’s his name? Sebastian? Did you go to the municipality? Let me try calling them… followed by another bout of disappearance. A little later the ganenet finally comes over to us and declares ok yes he’s here, you can leave now, good-bye. That’s it. I walked out and down the street with Lance, tears welling in my eyes and cried “I MISS MR. TODD!!!!!”
        — Insert one of Kollene Karlsson’s amazing pictures of the kids at NCCC here —
The NCCC community in Sarasota knows well what I’m talking about. We were so unbelievably fortunate to have Sebastian, and if only briefly Liliana, learn, grow, blossom, and develop in the environment that Todd Snavely (Mr. Todd to us) has created. The other parents will surely nod and shake their heads in a shared sentiment of appreciation and wonder when I talk about my son, at age 3, returning home declaring that he wants to go to Mauritania, the United Arab Emirates, and Colorado, and identifying all the countries in the continent of Asia. (“You see this”, as he picks up the littlest piece, a speckle, a crumb, between thumb and forefinger, “this is Israel!”)
But here we are now. In this tiny stretch of land. New transplants. We go to pick Sebastian up at 1:30 pm and ask him how his day was. “Um, actually it was really fun”. So there we go. This is perhaps more a testament to the kid’s spirit and attitude rather than to the gan itself, but nevertheless, our kid’s ok.
We have since found our joyous rituals surrounding our excursions to and from gan: Sebastian riding to school on his tricycle (he likes to call it a “motorcycle”,) or riding on Lance’s back as Lance sprints to make it there before the gates close at 8:30 am. (Yes, there are gates. And locks on said gates. His gan is in fact one of the few that doesn’t have the addition of a guard at the gate.) And (here’s where I enter the scene): enjoying a kartiv (popsicle) and a pizza on the bench on the corner of Basel Street after picking him up.
The girls all smile and pronounce: “Hineh Sebastian” (Here is Sebastian) when we walk in the classroom, and this morning as we were getting ready for school, he beseeched “Ima what time is it?” 8:15. “So we’d better hurry, I really hope that I get to gan before the mifgash (meeting/ circle time).”
I must admit, I don’t know what they learn there. I know they learn about the chagim (the holidays), which admittedly are many in this Jewish nation, but when there are no chagim – not a clue. Though there are fewer sights sweeter than seeing the kids emerge on Friday afternoons with fresh-baked Challah.
The other day, while I was running his evening bath after the ritual shaking sand out of his pants pockets over the balcony, Sebastian started uttering the phrases “alimut fizit ve-alimut milulit” (substitute ‘w’s for ‘l’s for the comical ring) – meaning physical violence and verbal violence. So this is what they learn about at school. In Florida it was reading, writing, math, and geography. Here it’s about physical and verbal violence. But it’s all good. It’s in the context, I’ve learned, of a lesson on the subject of friendship, tolerance, and respect.
I only wish Liliana learned such things in her gan.
But her gan is a different story. 
Postscript: Things have changed a bit. Sebastian is no longer so keen on arriving in time for the 8:30 am mifgash. He realizes that the later he gets there, the shorter his day there. He also asks to be picked up earlier. We’re investigating…..