Of Mice, and Men, and Felicity Huffman

With Felicity Huffman, Lori Laughlin, and dozens more in the news for college admissions fraud, it suddenly occurred to me that I have a small Felicity Huffman anecdote from my own life.

In early 2005, during my first winter in Colorado, I worked a 2nd job at Paradise Bakery & Cafe in Snowmass Village. The ski town was close to Aspen, the Hollywood of the Rockies, but Snowmass had the much more noteworthy ski mountain. As a result, vacationing celebrities visited our cafe with surprising frequency. That winter, I spotted and/or chatted briefly with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, famous humor columnist Dave Barry (he cracked a skiing-in-Florida joke to me and only me!), the now-deceased director Harold Ramis (I told him I adored ‘Groundhog Day’), and even world-famous supermodel Cindy Crawford — yes, seriously — who was there with her young daughter, and who somehow didn’t look a day older than she did in her 1992 Pepsi commercial.

The one other celebrity sighting I had was a 2-for-1 deal: Felicity Huffman and her husband William H. Macy. They visited the cafe with their two daughters, who at the time were 5 and almost 3. The 4 of them sat down in the corner of the cafe, next to a window, and it seemed to me that Huffman and Macy, more than any of the other celebrities I’d seen, were anxiously trying their hardest to keep a low profile.

"Jurassic Park 3" New York Premiere - July 7, 2001

Unlike the soy latte I made for Harold Ramis or the hot chocolate I made for Cindy Crawford’s daughter, I didn’t get to serve food to Huffman or Macy, even though I would have enjoyed doing so and might have told Macy how much I admired his work as Jerry Lundegaard in ‘Fargo’ — if he had come up to the counter alone, that is. But something about this being a celebrity family made me solidly averse to the idea of approaching either Macy or Huffman while they were with their kids. I had made a point of chatting with Ulrich, Barry, and Ramis, but parents with young kids felt decidedly off-limits for manufacturing a starstruck encounter that I could regale my friends with later.

I don’t have specific impressions of Huffman and Macy beyond the fact that they were intent on feeding their children, and even more intent on protecting the girls from the glare of their parents’ fame. That much I could pick up on from their body language.

I’m quite certain that neither Huffman nor Macy at that moment would have remotely fathomed the possibility that they would eventually pay someone a large sum of money to alter their then-5-year-old daughter’s SAT scores so she could unfairly gain admission into an elite university.

But 13 years later, that happened.

Parenting is hard. It brings with it all sorts of anxiety, and pressure points as far as the eye can see. I can’t yet personally speak to any of these pressures that extend beyond the toddler years. Danielle and I have a hundred different ironclad resolutions about things we will absolutely do as parents, and another hundred resolutions about things we will absolutely never do. In that vein of utter moral certainty, I could very easily offer a self-righteous, finger-wagging sermon about the perils of wealth and helicopter parenting. But I won’t.

Just know this: We are, all of us, capable of far worse deeds than we tend to give ourselves credit for. As poet Robert Burns once said, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” and that assuredly applies to parental resolutions.

If 2019 Felicity Huffman could go back in time and talk to her 2005 self, the one who sat with her husband and little girls in the café where I worked, I’m sure she would have a lot to say, with furrowed brow and the lucid, feverish moral certainty that comes with hindsight.

But we don’t get the benefit of receiving pep talks and dire warnings from our future selves. So we just have to somehow find a way — day by day, week by week, year by year — to cling as tightly as we can to our best intentions and best-laid plans as parents (and as people). The stakes are high, and the consequences of losing our grip on our moral bearings are all too real.

Just look at Felicity Huffman.

Or better yet, look in the mirror.

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