The Christmas Box
Entry # 2:
AreWe Having Fun Yet?
The following excerpt is found on a storage box, used to house Christmas ornaments, a bedraggled cardboard arrangement, upon which I began scrawling an annual message, careful to affix the date each year. Some of the messages are filled with hope and whimsy; others, with dark forebodings of dire straits. Still others contain a blending of the two, a more accurate description of life up here on the mountain, on Bell Springs Road, and possibly where you live, also.
January 15, 2,000
“New Millennium and everything
Let’s see: question, question, who’s got a question?
Where will Little Buddy end up,
Pennsylvania or Transylvania?
How about Doll Face?
WorkAbility or AmeriCorps?
Will our taxes get paid?
Will our car run for more than six weeks?
Are we having fun yet? We’re ready for action; we’re ready for danger. “
Blink your eyes, and Casey is no longer in my backpack, riding on my back, but he is in college, having graduated from Laytonville High, co-valedictorian of his class. He had taken a trip back to the East Coast, in the summer of 1999, prior to the start of his senior year in high school. He had been invited to accompany his Aunt Beth, and cousin Tim, back to look at some of the possible candidates that existed on the other side of the country. Casey was particularly interested in Franklin and Marshall, located in Pennsylvania, and while we supported any choice he made, I figured to myself that if he ended up there, we would only see him in the summers.
As it was, he chose Pacific University, up about twenty-five miles west of Portland. The commute was still between eight and ten hours, depending on whether Casey or I was driving, and I’ll let you figure out which time period belonged to which driver.
What I did not know was that Casey and I were to begin a unique [to us] means of correspondence, utilizing the computer and email. Since we did not have internet at home, I had to communicate from school. So often I would find that as I was rising that morning, around three-thirty or so, Case was going to bed. He would sit down each night/morning, before he crashed, and dash me off the events of the day. It was a comfortable way to stay in touch, and we managed to communicate all through the week, giving it a rest on the weekends. Now, when I talk to parents of kids who are traipsing off to college, I have encouraging words to give them about the benefits of improved communication.
AmeriCorps and Annie had a tumultuous relationship at best, and a disastrous one at worst. Things had come to the proverbial head this Christmas, because the Powers That Be at AmeriCorps had decreed that Annie would work the two weeks that fell during Christmas, even though there were no classes. Her role was to operate the school garden, through Binet’s science class, and she worked with kids every day. She was on salary, so AmeriCorps officials determined that she should work. Well, in the finest of Robert moments, I threw a real hissy fit, as in, “When Papa goes on vacation, everyone goes on vacation," only this was, “When the family takes off school for Christmas break, Annie has to be there too.”
One final event occurred shortly thereafter, when Annie refused to travel over icy, snowy highways, to a meeting on the coast. The meetings were pointless, and they served to further alienate Ann from their program. Then WorkAbility came along, and everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.
"Will our taxes get paid?" Mendocino County requires that taxes be paid in two installments, one in December, and the second in April. So every December 10th, we have to juggle the finances, already strained because of the Season, in order to accommodate this bill. It’s not as though we weren’t expecting it, but we still had to do the soft-shoe, to come up with the payment.
As far as our Trooper was concerned, it had been nothing but a, well, a trooper, and kept us in the ballgame for eight years. Now Casey had done a valve job, and we were afraid that the transmission was getting shaky, so we were just preparing ourselves for reality.
Besides, the windows had been broken out while Casey was at the Chevron Station, working the night of the Millennium. It seemed so strange to have him leave at 11:30 in order to get to work by midnight. If I had to go to work on New Years night, at midnight, I would just slit my throat.
Still, I asked the question, “Are we having fun yet?” We managed to keep our heads above water, and we were still two years away from disastrous 2002, when I had to take the state-mandated CLAD course, (not to mention losing to the "rally-monkey" team in the Series) which cut so drastically into my professional and personal time. That course was the final straw for me, as I rode out the course, struggling to stay on board the school district, until I turned fifty-five. I fell short by one year, but made do with my accrued sick leave. The next time the state wants me to take a CLAD course, I will tell them that I would like to help them out, but I have to re-primer the jeep. And then I will go do it.