Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving memories: Lessons Learned



The first six months of grammar school – the early years -- comprised a slow, thrilling autumn crescendo that would culminate in the clash of cymbals known as Christmas break. We could feel the rumble of the kettle drums once the first brown and red tissue paper leaves hit the bulletin board.

After Halloween, more instruments would join, as we made unlikely and anatomically incorrect turkey cutouts by tracing a pattern around our palm and fingers. The thumb was the head, and after that it was really every turkey for himself. Only the class artists – the left-handed kids -- could make it look like anything other than a hand, so the rest of us tried other pursuits. Poetry, perhaps, with all its attendant license:

“On Thanksgiving Day/That’s when we all say/Hurray for the Mayflower, Nina, and Santa Maria/That’s why we are so free –Awww!”

And:

“Thanksgiving Day is here/Roll out the Burgie and we’ll have some beer/And if you don’t have one too/It will be like a cow that can’t say moo.”

We played pilgrims; not the actual, dour, religious fanatics, of course. No, we knew only about the ones who wore tall construction-paper hats, fell in love with Indian maidens, and shared Jiffypop and cupcakes with their native brothers and sisters.

Thanksgiving kicked off a series of parties. Though predominantly a protestant school, we could all sing the Dreidel song, and Hanukah was next on the docket. With Christmas, though, would come a sense of melancholy followed by an endless stretch of months until summer finally arrived.

There would be little to look forward to in-between Christmas and summer -- just a sprinkling of holidays that included strange stories about little boys who cut down trees, and the mystery of why anyone would want to search for a hardboiled egg.

39 comments:

Tash said...

I just saw the photo & really loved the colors! (I'm going back now to read the column...are you the kind of person that notices a song for the lyrics 1st or for the tune?)

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I am not sure if I understand the picture.

Is it figurative or non-figurative? Remember I'm slow.

Anyway it’s an interesting picture; I think I can have a long look....or.

Carolynn said...

I have so few childhood memories of my school years...hmmm....perhaps I should be in therapy.

Terri said...

Chives, my dear. Definitely no hard boiled eggs. But chives will be emerging during that period of anticipation between Christmas and summer. And they will bloom those wonderful purple lace blossoms and everyone will be envious of my chives. THAT'S what happens between Christmas and summer.

altadenahiker said...

Tash, depends, but probably tune. Carolynn, I think it's because we moved so much during critical points in time. In my time. So I have sign posts. Terri, my sage and basil never fail, so I'll try the chives, you make is sound so inviting...

Petrea said...

What about Valentine's Day? I used to dread it--I mean until I was about 45.

Even I can grow chives. Yours ought to be prize-winning.

Carolynn, maybe there's a group for us. I don't remember much of this stuff either. That's probably for the best.

Paula said...

I like the way you muse to amuse, KB. And the turkey is so cute.

wv ingwoo
This is as good as my fave wv, mershfig.

Virginia said...

!. I taught 3rd grade for 19 years. We NEVER did the hand turkey thing. We were far more creative.
2. Spring Break was what got us through till summer. As a teacher I thought it would never come and then......poof....it was over with the blink of an eye.
3. When I grow up , I want to write like you KB. And come to think of it , I believe I can smell that "school paste" right now. You remember it too don't you!

V
PS We rarely if ever wrote "rhyming" poems because they always turned out like....ahem.. yours. Sorry.

Margaret said...

This, a song my children learned in kindergarten:

Gobble, gobble, gobble,
Fresh turkey, fresh turkeys,
Gobble, gobble, gobble,
Fresh turkeys are we.

They'll cut you, and baste you,
And then they'll all taste you,
Gobble, gobble, gobble
Fresh turkeys are we.

Laurie said...

My daughter is all about the hand turkeys this year. I told her we could make hand turkey sugar cookies with little candy corn beaks. She still doesn't really know that the turkey served on the table is actually a real turkey, and I have no intention of being the gruesome bearer of the news Guess I'll let her find that out in kindergarten next year with Margaret's song or something...

On another note: I just learned that Grenada has a Thanksgiving day celebration in October to mark the US-led invasion in 1983. I wonder what they serve?

Tash said...

When fresh off the boat - I was in 6th grade for 1 1/2 months. There was a very very blond, very very cute boy Steve in my class and we did square dancing. Then we moved to HP & I started Jr High - AND MISSED THE WHOLE Hallow-Thnx-Hank-Christmas thing...I am really bummed now :v|OO={

Mister Earl said...

I think "ingwoo" is either an Alaskan pick-up bar or an ad campaign from an internet bank.

Shell Sherree said...

Nope, never did turkey cutouts, though I'm lucky that I'm left-handed to draw and write, but right-handed for pretty much everything that's left. I mean, right-handed for pretty much everything else. Long story short, scissors are no problem for me.

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

I'm trying to decipher Tash's sad face. Are those double buggars or boobs? Obviously the aftermath of missing out on hand turkeys.

Virginia....I'll always remember my third grade teacher Mrs Pembertan. She was my absolute favorite. She picked up on my learning disabilities and made sure that I was put into programs that emphasized the visual arts. She kept track of me for a few years. Loved her.

AH: I remember how exciting it was getting a new kid in class (especially mid-year) It was instant popularity for them if they didn't screw it up.

Virginia said...

KB,
Now I'm feeling guilty about saying that about your poem. Of course it was a lovely poem and you did your best work. Thatta girl!!!!
V

altadenahiker said...

That's ok, Roll out the Burgie, Virg, and we'll have a beer. (Where did I get that, I wonder?)

Tash, PA is right; it could take us a whole day to decipher that frowny face. What the hell is it?

I remember my 3rd grade teacher too (well, of course i do). Mrs. Clapp. We all loved her. she always gave me an N in Citizenship (N = needs improvement).

altadenahiker said...

Oh, and Laurie, I DEMAND you post the cookie pictures --the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Paula said...

Mr E, ingwoo could also be something Bill Ingvall might do but then we're still left with mershfig.

PA, I didn't find out I had learning disabilities until my son was in school and started having problems, then I said, I says to myselves, "So that's what the deal is." I'm still kinda pissed that all those teachers and professors just made me feel bad about myself because I didn't "get it". I guess they weren't so smart after all, were they? I think I'll just borrow Mrs Pemberton for a while. I feel better already.

Petrea said...

I wonder if "learning disabilities" were invented to account for the reality that students are individuals with varied talents. Some teachers can't deal with students as individuals. (To be fair it's not always their fault--they're overloaded with class size and underloaded with funds and supplies.)

But jeez. If a teacher sees your strengths and helps you build on them, are you just lucky? Shouldn't that be the norm? How many kids fail because the surrounding adults are too overwhelmed to get a good look at their potential?

Maybe we should teach all children Margaret's poem with blood dripping down our chins. That is so delightfully weird. But then we're back to therapy. Carolynn, any luck finding a group? I'm starting to remember.

Oh my god, my WV is "reachabl".

Paula said...

Maybe I shouldn't get on my soap box...well, okay...ahem...

Petrea, you're absolutely right, on all counts. Also, learning disabled is what we get to call ourselves, everyone else has to be PC and say we have learning differences.

I know personally that there are wonderful teachers who do everything they can to reach as many students as they can and that they're heroes because their job is nigh on impossible. But consider this one simple fact and maybe you'll have a better idea why: at the beginning of the 20th century big business went to the government and said that they needed workers who could sit still for long periods of time, work abstractly on concrete problems from their desks, do repetitive work, and follow lots of rules (We haven't always done that in school. Really). After that, education largely became about administering a college/business prep curriculum, not about educating children - or adults. And we ALL have to go to college, technical schools are for losers. Now several generations later, 65% of all the people in jail are school drop-outs and largely illiterate. And I know from first hand experience that discrimination of many kinds is built right into the curriculum. I went up against our school board and I know how they work - or at least used to.

I also want to point out my favorite part of Special Education: if a child is considered gifted and put into a special class they get an IEP, an Individual Education Plan, just like the kids with "learning differences". Technically speaking, gifted kids are learning disabled because they can't fully function in a regular classroom and need to have an exception made for them. It's rhducklo.

Petrea said...

I read excerpts from a new book (can't remember the title now, damn!) about education. The premise is that we have to rethink it entirely.

Matthew Groening is interviewed. He talks about how he just kind of had to wait it out--school. He wasn't fit to it, nor it to him.

Virginia said...

Oh don't get me started here about the state of education today. There's a reason I retired a titch early. I couldn't unclench my teeth, I couldn't continue to drinking the Kool Aid, I couldn't be satisfied with dropping all the "enriching studies " that I had always taught to ALL of my students because I had to start "reviewing for the standardized tests that were given the first of April" in NOVEMBER~!! When I packed up my things two years ago and looked at all the authors and artists and thematic units on the SW desert and the rainforests and how our planet is affected by it, and realized they had been put away for a $%^& standardized test......... I knew it was time to go.
No Child Left Behind left them ALL behind.
V

Mademoiselle Thanksgiv said...

Did you know that 47% or so of the population of Detroit are functionally illiterate?

Mister Earl said...

You are a wonderful writer, Karin. Lots of that Fitzgerald feel in this one.

I really don't know much about the whole "learning disability" thing. I'm convinced that if I were in school today, I would have been diagnosed as some sort of space cadet and medicated. During the first grade, I lived in fear. They would show me these pieces of paper with words on them, and say the word. I just looked at the word and all I felt was paralyzing fear. We were supposed to keep our words in a shoe box, organized in some fashion. My shoebox was a disaster. My mind was everywhere except in the room.
Somehow I learned to survive and more or less fit in more and more as time went by. But not really.

Today kids seem to have attention disorders, and information-processing disorders. I'm sure I had something, but there was nothing to have back then.

Petrea said...

Me too, Earl. I did what I was supposed to do because I was terrified. But all I wanted to do was gaze out the window at the cedar waxwings or get up on the stage in the auditorium and yell.

Petrea said...

And I was considered well-adjusted.

altadenahiker said...

Earl, that was so funny and sad.

The first five years of school I just loved, and was the ultimate class show-off. I would also correct the teacher in small matters -- for example, her pronunciation of a German town.

Then I turned twelve and didn't hear another word spoken by any adult until I was a junior in college.

WV:Lousi (really!)

Mister Earl said...

I recall reading somewhere that Fitzgerald once wrote that childhood is chemical insanity. Maybe every kid is more or less "psychotic" in some fashion, or maybe just a few of us. So much more to say.

Virginia said...

Don't forget to give the Phoebster and Al some turkey, but no bones!
V

Petrea said...

I think I'll stop complaining about it. I had a good education. What do I want, everything to be about me? That just can't be so.

Was it Picasso or Yogi Berra who said you have to learn the rules before you can break them? Maybe childhood is where we learn the rules, like it or not. Then as adults, hopefully we know enough about what's normal that we can be individuals without terrifying others or getting arrested.

Anonymous said...

I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving DAY and a tasty turkey, which is a lovely US celebration.

Virginia said...

Petrea,
You've got a good head on your shoulders. I could bitch forever but what good will it do? I just hope my grandchildren aren't feed a steady diet of "standardized tests" for all their precious lives. It makes me sad.
V

bandit said...

Good for you, Virg!

At the beginning of the 21st century big business said-"Screw 'em, we'll just get good help from overseas. Cheap."
I heard China's gonna need more cars than us soon, upwardly mobile, and all that.
Those lucky bastards.

Virginia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
altadenahiker said...

Who is going to help wash the dishes?

altadenahiker said...

You won't, but this will:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SznvtWsjRzg

Petrea said...

Well, as the comment previous to yours was deleted, I don't know what prompted the song. But what a nice little holiday ditty. I like the pictures.

Paula said...

Mr Earl, exactly but, life goes on.

AH, I'm going to have to talk the staff, I don't recall giving permission to have a film crew on the grounds, much less recording my afternoon recitals...

Julie said...

How about the classroom is to socialise and to regimentise and the family is to educate?

I love the conversations you all have and you are witty and intelligent and caring. But there must be an element of self-help in education, be that from the individual or from the family. It is not all up to government.