The Christmas Box
Entry # 11:
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 2, 1994
Well, it’s time to wax
Philosophical again; it would probably be
Better to wax the car, but oh well. Every year I
Look forward soooo much to Christmas and it rarely
Meets with my expectations. Well, this year it did. May
1994 be as comfortable and smooth as 1993. I do not
Think that I will ever see another Holiday Season, as filled with
Enjoyment, as this one. See you next year.
The car referenced in the inscription would have been the Trooper. It was the first brand new car that either Ann or I had ever bought, so waxing it makes a certain amount of sense. That Trooper had driven us to New Mexico, the first of two consecutive summers we went, with never so much as sneeze.
I was part of a workshop, geared to teachers who taught in districts with large percentages of Native kids attending classes. The program was called Art Connects, and was designed to incorporate art projects into the reading and language classes, so as to integrate the two, and allow for expansion of vocabulary. The lessons were effective for districts with a majority of Native kids, not so much Laytonville, where the percentage of the student population that was Native American, was around 14 or so.
As a staff at Laytonville, we had been informed mid school-year, that this workshop was being offered, and who would like to attend? There were three of us from the middle school, and three from the elementary school, who ended up making the trip, so we made it a school-wide endeavor. This workshop took place during the five-year period that the district was restructuring, so it could not have been more timely.
The class not only taught the concepts and provided materials, it also ran a series of learning centers, for teachers to actually get the opportunity to play around with different mediums. At one station, there was an assortment of musical instruments, lots of percussion and other easily accessible instruments, and the task was to make music, in any form we chose. We had a lot of fun, and produced a fun ditty, that required that we work together to produce the perfect sound.
I also worked with a group to perform a play, I sculpted a little rabbit out of clay, and I got my one and only experience painting. We were supposed to paint a picture of this rocking chair, by filling in what was visible through the gaps in the chair, thereby forming the chair by the process of the white paper, still visible on the “canvas.” Though the picture I produced, certainly left a lot to be desired, if you were looking for an aesthetically pleasing chair, it was actually pretty fascinating, for what it was designed to instruct. “Fascinating” is a politically correct way to say it was pretty crudely drawn. I didn’t mind; I was happy with my clay rabbit.
One of my strongest memories is of the drive across the Southwest, to get to New Mexico. The boys would have been ten, nine, and seven years old, and were prone to arguing amongst themselves. I know that sounds unusual, that three male siblings would argue, but the verbal gymnastics that these three could engage in, were epic in their presentation. So I devised a system which required a certain number of points to be accrued, in order for each boy to gain admission into Disneyland, which was scheduled for the return trip.
It doesn’t matter that the impracticality of arriving at Disneyland, with one or more boys ineligible for the experience, would probably have been problematic. “Sorry, Billy, you will just have to wait the next twelve hours out here in the parking lot, by yourself.” The idea was you got points for doing or saying something nice, you got points for helping out in the motel, and most importantly, you did not get points if you were whiny, petulant, or simply a jerk. Amazing what the power of positive reinforcement will accomplish, while traveling across the desert in July. It was 114 degrees in Needles, California, which for me, being a SoCal boy, was fine, but not so much for the others. After all, we had to walk from the car to the air-conditioned room, and from there to the pool. Tough job, but someone had to do it.
This was the Holiday season that we set out to duplicate a Dickensian Christmas, including roasting a goose, and acquiring English Plum Pudding, which to my surprise tasted just like Mom and Pop’s fruit cake. We had a Christmas tree that was ten feet tall, and just about as wide, almost brushing up against us, as we sat in the couch, which had been rearranged in the first place to accommodate the tree. We had done all of the traditional decorations, including putting lights into a manzanita tree, out in front of the house, amidst the rose bushes.
We thought manzanita worked just fine, especially since it was Casey who actually got up into the tree, and installed the lights. That was also a year when we got snow, thereby bringing to fruition, my oft-repeated line about the only time snow being welcome, is on the sixteen day break from the school district.
As far as whether or not it was the most enjoyable, I always figure my degree of enjoyment, is directly proportional to my degree of exhaustion. Short of sleeping through the sixteen-day break to better convey my sense of fatigue, I was able to enjoy this Holiday more than any other, because my gas tank was on empty, and my vehicle had come to a rest-sitting in a chair at the card table, with a 1,500 piece jigsaw puzzle, and a stack of Christmassy VHS films.
When the boys could put their squabbling on hold long enough to play a rubber of bridge, we put a piece of foam board over the puzzle, and dealt the cards. All I ever asked of them was to be civilized at the bridge table, but asking that of three pre-teen boys, or three boys that close in age, at any time period of their lives, was like asking for them to be civilized for a three-day automotive trip, and there was no Disneyland to dangle in front of them. About four hands of bridge was shelf-life for us in those days. Baby steps, you know, both in the game of bridge, and the game of life.