We met last year at the Midsummer Night Drinks Gala silent auction — we were both bidding on getting to hold Andy Cohen’s baby for 20 minutes. I’m writing because I heard about the learning pod you’re creating for a small cohort of lucky (#blessed!) families of K-4th grade learners. We understand that you’re curating your pod discreetly, but when our au pair told us all about what you’re doing, which she learned from her eyelash extension aesthetician, I simply couldn’t wait to reach out.
We’ve been asked to join other multimodal sensory learning Hamptons pods, but your pod sounds AMAZING — so Laura Ingalls Wilder one-room schoolhouse meets Hunger Games, but in the best way. In this time when kids aren’t getting enough hugs, your pod seems full of hygge. I love that the students will learn to finger knit the words GOOD TROUBLE, and I agree that archery really should be considered the sport of this pandemic. And you’re certainly never too young to grow your own ingredients to make vegetarian haggis.
Word on the street — or, should I say, whispered in the socially-distanced Pilates/Mindfulness group that takes place on our veranda — is that your pod is almost full and you’re considering only diversity candidates. That’s music to our ears. While our daughter Toile is not a child of color, we like to say that we are a family of no color, in that we don’t see it, or rather that we surround ourselves with so many people who are different shades of brown that they all just blur. When our weekend nanny, Esperanza, puts sunscreen on our daughter, Toile loves to joke, “Help! I’m melanin deprived!” Espie and Toile laugh and laugh.
My book club was probably the first to read How to Be an Anti-Racist, and I’ve never hesitated to teach Toile and her younger sister Mirepoix what that means. Last Halloween, Toile chose to dress as a fairy she named “White Fragility,” for which she donned a white unitard with gossamer wings she purposefully tattered and from which she hung shackles made from recyclables. My sister-in-law thought Toile looked like a suffragist ghost, and most people asked if she was Frozen 2 Elsa, but Toile didn’t mind. She stood in her truth. Also, she follows Blue Ivy on Insta and feels like they’re best friends.
Toile speaks Spanish, of course, un petit peu de French, and enough Yiddish to order at our Upper East Side deli, which may or may not reopen. She has zero nut allergies. She plays beautifully with others, especially from six feet away. It’s worth mentioning that, in a mask, Toile is extremely expressive above the nose. During this pandemic, she’s taught herself to raise one eyebrow so she can amplify her ability to display empathy, which she always does for children who may not have yet attained her cognitive, social, and emotional skills. Having said that, if your pod is mask-free, we are TOTALLY enthusiastic. One of my husband’s board members makes those rapid tests, which we’d be happy to provide bi-weekly, and it would be very empowering for the children to be allowed to choose whether they want a finger prick or a nose swab.
This pandemic has honed her resiliency. She was a rock star of adaptability when her pandemic 7th birthday party had to turn into one in which we hired ponies for all her little friends who were also sheltering Out East to do a horseback drive by.
We understand that in creating a pod you’re necessarily concerned with knowing what safety protocols your pod families follow. After all, you can’t spell immunity without community, almost! To give you some insight into how seriously we take sheltering in place, the only caregivers we have in our home are our live-in au pair, our weekend nanny, and my husband’s mother, who sometimes watches the girls while I’m doing my Peletons but otherwise prefers her in-law suite. Our essential gardener comes by daily in the summer and bi-weekly in the fall, and he stays outside. (Toile is trying to teach him how to use the leaf blower to do Morse code.)
Our family is scrupulous about mask-wearing whenever we leave our grounds (we got out of the city the minute they shut down Toile’s school — we yanked her out of her afternoon parkour class and drove straight to the beach). Toile insists on washing her hands for far more than 20 seconds because it gives her time to sing her favorite songs while she lathers, like “The Schuyler Sisters” (she saw Hamilton way before Disney +) and also “You Oughta Know” from Jagged Little Pill, which, thank God, we all got to see before Broadway went dark.
If there’s anything else we can tell you about Toile or our family or our anti-racism or my willingness to do just about anything to enroll our daughter in your pod, please don’t hesitate to ask. Our pool house is very roomy, with solar panels and a state-of-the-art HVAC, in case you need extra learning real estate!
We understand this is a “pay what you can” pod, and I’ve let my husband know that we can pay a lot.
Fingers super crossed!
— Sarina DeFarge Douglas & Renley Douglas III