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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 473

I ignored her and threw my head back. Maybe that’s what religion is, hurling yourself off a cliff and trusting that something bigger will take care of you and carry you to the right place.

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Here, the author, Maria Semple, indulges in a little philosophy about faith. It's not a bad definition of faith, but it raises the question: what happens if you place your faith in something that isn't true and it fails to "take care of you and carry you to the right place," leaving you to crash and burn? How many different cracks at faith does one get? Best to make sure you place your faith and trust in something where the odds favor you, but this can lead to hesitation and fear. New ventures or overcoming old fears (like the mother's agoraphobia) sometimes simply requires a step into the unknown and the risk that entails.

That night at dinner, I sat through Mom and Dad's "We're-so proud-of-you's and "She's-a-smart-one's until there was a lull. "You know what it means," I said. "The big thing it means." Mom and Dad frowned question marks at each other. "You don't remember?" I said. "You told me when I started Galer Street that if I got perfect grades the whole way through, I could have anything I wanted for a graduation present."

Bee Beach was promised anything she wanted by her parents if she got perfect grades in middle school, but her parents have forgotten all about the promise. Apparently, the promise was just a strategy dreamed up on the spot to get her to forget about wanting a pony. She reminds her parents of the promise and tells them she wants a family trip to Antarctica. Besides the usual issues with work schedules, there is also the problem that her mother, an award-winning architect, is housebound and does not like to travel.

Apparently, my husband and I told her she could have anything she wanted if she graduated middle school with straight A's. The straight A's have arrived - or should I say straight S's, because Galer Street is one of those liberal, grades-erode-self-esteem-type schools (let's hope you don't have them in India)—and so what does Bee want? To take a family trip to Antarctica!

Here the author pokes fun at the "everyone gets a prize" mentality in her daughter's school. They give As to everyone because in a true meritocracy someone's feelings might get hurt (recognizing outstanding excellence or hard work might damage the self-esteem of others). Everyone must be presumed equal (whether they are or not), so differences in quality are sacrificed. Note the irony that she is rolling her eyes about this (she doesn't really believe in it), yet she enrolled her own daughter there. She does feel compelled, though, to warn her remote assistant in India.

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