The Christmas Box
Entry # 6:
Anybody Got a Fork?
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.
December 29, 2005
Well, you have to go back to ’89 to find
Me writing on the outside of this box.
Questions abound! As in, starting with me.
Will I get sprung from the rat hole? Will
Annie be the Quilt Mistress of NorCal?
Will Casey have a cabin to sit outside of and
Watch the sun go down? Will Benny be able to
Pay truck payments, insurance and food too?
Will Lito join the home team and give Laytonville
A wide berth (and join us for Christmas Day?)
I’m going downstairs now to listen to my new around-
Sound system. How about you?
This entry is intriguing because it represents our family in its second stage of development, the first stage being the at-home/growing up stage. Now all three sons were involved in the logistics of college, living accommodations, trying to make it all work and be able to eat also.
Casey was in his fifth and final year up at Pacific University, in Forest Grove, Oregon, a school of approximately 1,500 students, and was contemplating putting a cabin on our property, similar in size to the 16 by 20 foot structure I had built in 1981, with the help of Matt, Tom and Rex. Annie and I were delighted at the thought that one of the boys was contemplating putting down roots on the land. We could hope all we wanted, but we could not influence. We did not want any of them up here on any other terms but their own.
When he did decide to build, he chose a spot halfway between our house and Bell Springs Road, and tweaked the driveway running past, so as to have a little more distance between the cabin and the driveway. Of course, with the cabin came a garden and the inception of the Community Sponsored Agriculture business, the foundation for what Casey would like to eventually see as an emporium for gardening needs, along with a general store, up here on Bell Springs Road, so that folks do not have to go all the way to town to get a paper and a quart of milk.
Ben, after making the leap from the little white Plymouth, to the VW Jetta, to the brand new Toyota four-wheel-drive truck, now found that life with these responsibilities, demanded a greater amount of his time and energy. Ben was up to the task. After establishing his independence immediately after high school graduation, by getting an apartment in Willits, he had launched his career with Cal Fire, then called CDF, and earned a reputation as a fire-fighting member of the Helitack Unit.
This group responded to fires via helicopter, and was instrumental in zeroing in on newly discovered conflagrations, and limiting damage, or in providing support for any other type of fire that needed it. Now with an income, Ben set out to clarify his choice of vehicle, in which to get to and from his assigned fire station, and it was not a VW Jetta.
Lito was over at Sacramento State, which was perfectly fine with us, even though the only two colleges that ever came up in earlier conversations, were Chico State and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. The reference to giving Laytonville a wide berth was a Markism, which was my way of saying that I thought the Chevron Station was not really the option that Lito thought it was.
I know that earning a little loot to help get through the school year was only half the attraction, friends and females being the other half, but we had been hoping that he would land in another setting, before making Laytonville his final choice. The compromise eventually became that he lived in Laytonville, but worked where Cal-Fire assigned him, and Laytonville turned out to be a pretty convenient spot to land in, on the way to and from Willits.
Annie was still at the District, but had been researching long-arm quilting machines, which cost about $15,000, and was considering going into the quilting industry. She hoped to be able to earn enough to pay the costs of the business, including the monthly payment on the long-arm, and eventually to be able to work out of our house.
Though the tone of this Christmas message is light, the term “rat hole” ominously suggests that I was on the home-stretch of my teaching career. The heinous CLAD experience of 2002 was the cataclysmic event that weakened my teaching career’s foundation, and the presence of MCOE personnel at staff meetings, was the toxin which crumbled that weakened base. Stick a fork in me-I was done.
I had gone from spouting the words, “They will have to drag me kicking and screaming from my classroom,” to simply kicking and screaming. The District’s insistence on bringing in county personnel to teach teachers how to prepare students for STAR testing , accomplishing this during staff meeting time, was reprehensible. I didn’t need to be told how to prepare students to take a test. The only test I much cared about, was the test of life, and how well prepared a kid was to be to function normally.
My job was to get them safely through the turbulent waters of middle school, both through humor and by presenting a palatable agenda within the classroom. When those waters threatened to engulf me, leaving the students to fend for themselves, I jumped off of the sinking ship, and let it drift to the bottom.
I retired to my homestead up on Bell Springs Road, and settled into my easy chair, the sound of The Black-Eyed Peas resonating out through seven surround-sound speakers, a Christmas gift from Casey and Ross. It beat the hell out of listening to someone from the county teach me how to teach students to take a meaningless test, so that W could say that he was doing something about education. He did something all right. He chased me right out of the classroom. Maybe I should send him a thank-you note.