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Our Town

Louisville is a small city/big town, the kind of place where everyone is, or seems to be, a few degrees removed from everyone else. I didn’t feel a part of the web of the city my first few years back. I had been gone for seventeen years, and many of my connections were lost or forgotten in that time. Working from home also meant that I had few opportunities to get out and about to forge or renew these connections.

By now, I’ve been out of the work force for a year and a half, a part of a preschool community for over three years, part of a second preschool community for over one year, and part of a volunteer organization for four years. The connections are starting to not just form, but also to cross and develop into a true Louisvillian web. What follows are two recent examples.

Tale #1: The Preschool Connection

Three weeks ago, Simon had a make-up swim lesson at the JCC on a Tuesday. Afterwards, we hit the playground, where Simon befriended a boy, Mikhael, who is about eight months older. The next day, I was sick with a fever, so Matt took a half day off from work. The weather was nice, so he decided to take Simon to a local park, Big Rock. Shortly after arrival, Simon saw Mikhael, cried out “Hey, I know you!” very happily, and ran off to play.

Fast Friends at Big Rock

That left Matt to chat with Mikhael’s mother, who was with a two-year-old girl. The conversation went something like this:

“So how old is your daughter? “


“Is she in preschool?

“Yes, she’s at AJ.

“That’s interesting. My wife drives a two-year-old girl to AJ a few times a week.

“Really? Who?

“Agotich Kwai.

“She’s in Avigail’s class. I know your wife!”

And she does. Avigail’s family moved here from Israel about a year ago, and Keren (the mother) and I have compared notes about how much the girls are speaking at all, and what percentage of their speech is in English as opposed to their native tongue. Come to find out, Mikhael was very close to going to KIP for kindergarten, so he and Simon just missed being classmates. We’re setting up a play-date for this week.

Tale #2: The Elementary School Connection

I’m getting ready to gear up for choosing a kindergarten for Simon. The process here in Jefferson County is so deeply divided, complicated, controversial, and—if I do say so myself, stupid—that I’m not going to get into the details. Suffice it to say, I have a few magnet schools I’d like to check out, and then I plan to tour neighborhood schools. Magnet schools are chosen by lottery, and Simon is not guaranteed his neighborhood school either, so I have to look at several schools and rank them. Further, at least half of the schools I choose must be in neighborhoods with low income levels, low rates of education, and high percentages of minorities.

Anyway, given all this drama I’ve been asking around about people’s experiences with schools. Where are their kids, are they happy, and the like. I’m especially interested in those who are happy with a B cluster school, i.e. one of the schools in the low-income, low-education areas. About a month ago, I talked to the assistant in the toddler room at AJ, Agotich’s class last year. Margaret has kids at Byck, a B-cluster school.

It wasn’t her first choice—or even her second. It might have been her last one. She was devastated and frankly worried, but headed off to open house with an open mind. What she found was a well maintained building, an energetic staff, and a Waldorf-inspired program that appealed to her. She enrolled her boys, gulped hard, and hoped for the best. Which is what she got; her kids are in their third year at Byck, and the entire family is very happy with the school.

This made me feel better. Byck came up again when the daughter of an extended family member (my sister-in-law’s sister) ended up there this year. She had been at a different school for kindergarten and first grade, but the family moved last year and had to choose all over again. They, too, got Byck, and the school was their last pick as well. They are also happy with it, something we discussed at my nephew Ben’s birthday party last month. Then Julie, my sister-in-law’s sister-in-law joined the conversation.

“Are you talking about Margaret’s kids? They’re our new next-door neighbors.”

Seriously, that’s how small Louisville is. But wait! Just three days ago Matt, Simon, and I stopped by Guitar Emporium to run an errand. Matt has been building effects pedals lately, and he and a guy who works there were going to exchange some components. The conversation turned to kids, then I directed it to schools, and soon after Greg was telling me a now very familiar story about Byck.

“You know, I heard a very similar story from a family member and from a teacher at AJ.”

“Are you talking about Margaret?”


“That’s my wife.”

THAT’s how small this city is.

But wait, there’s a…

Bonus Round:

Two weeks ago we had an electrician out to the house. As we’re chatting while ensuring that I ordered the right switches (my house still has some early twentieth-century knob and tube wiring), he says to me,

“Now, did I get your name right? Jessica Goldstein?”

“That’s me.”

“Rita’s daughter?”

“Yup. She’s the one who gave me your name.”

“Does that make you related to Perry?”

“He’s my brother.”

“I’m sorry.”

They are friends, as it happens. Chris, the son of my mom’s electrician and the one who came to our house, is somehow related to old neighbors of my brother.

Can you believe how small this city is? I could go into how the home inspector I used to refinance two years ago screamed “Goldstein’s sister!” when he laid eyes on me, or how I see the woman who is a family friend and who inspired my name every Sunday at the JCC, or how I avoided a fellow KIP parent for several years because he was my worst baby-sitting job ever, but I think you get the idea.

The moral of this story:

  1. I should really go check out Byck;
  2. I should be nice to everyone, because you never, ever know when doing otherwise could come back to haunt you.

One Response to “Our Town”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    This happens so often because it is all going on in the east end of town. I agree that Louisville is pretty much an overgrown small town, but you would not have this happen with such frequency if you lived in the south or west end of the city.

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