Moment One: It’s Morning Meeting in Ms. K’s third grade class this past Monday. I’m interloping. She’s displaying a November calendar and taking the class through the highlights of the upcoming month. “So, friends, Happy November. This month has several important dates for us to remember. Tomorrow there is no school (loud cheers) because it is Election Day, when the people of our town will be choosing who will be on our Board of Education and who will be our First Selectman. Then, Thursday is A’s birthday, so we’ll sing Happy Birthday to her. Does anyone else have a birthday in November?
C. raises his hand. “Yes, C. Do you have a birthday this month?”
C. replies, “Yes.”
Ms. K. asks, “What day is your birthday, C.?”
C. replies, “August 4th.”
“Okay, well, let’s continue with the important things that are on the calendar in November. Next week on Thursday the 11th is Veterans Day, when we honor the people who have served our country during wars. The week after that we have Parent-Teacher conferences, so you’ll have half days (loud cheers), and I’ll get to share some of your work with your parents. And the week after that is Thanksgiving, where we remember all the things that we are thankful for.” As she finishes the rundown of the month, R’s hand shoots into the air. “Oh, I think you forgot one of the holidays!”
“Thank you for raising your hand, R., but next time please wait for me to call on you.”
R. keeps his hand in the air.
“Yes, R. Thank you for waiting. Which holiday did I forget?”
R. is ready, but his response. “I think you forgot Black Friday. (Loud cheers), But what is Black Friday celebrating? I forgot.”
Ms. K. being a better teacher and person than I, manages to stifle her snort, and replies calmly and without sarcasm. “Actually, R. Black Friday is not a holiday. A while back some stores realized that since many people had the day after Thanksgiving off, it might be good to try to get them to come to their stores on that day. They started having big sales to attract shoppers. Other stores liked the idea and it caught on.”
Most of the kids nod their heads respectfully at this explanation, though they have lost some confidence in their teacher, for they know full well that it was a huge oversight to omit the biggest holiday in November, the day for which all kids are thankful, the day when deep discounts allow Santa to bring them their most desired toys.
Moment Two: Walking Farley around the neighborhood, we notice that one of our neighbors has undertaken only a partial dismantling of the elaborate Halloween decorations in their front yard. While some neighbors have pivoted sharply to their Christmas paraphernalia, leapfrogging effortlessly over All Saints Day, Election Day, Veterans Day, Parent-Teacher Conferences, Thanksgiving and Black Friday, others find it a little harder to let go of their gruesome decor. They’ve put away the quaint ghosts hanging by their necks from the tree branches. (I don’t want to get too woke for my neighbors, but that’s an image that just doesn’t really say, charming, wholesome, kid-centered fun to me). They’ve put away those cute little gravestones, the bony hands reaching out of the ground, and the absent-minded or temporarily-blinded witch who’s crashed into the tree. I note the one item spared by the decor reaper. That would be the realistic 13-foot-tall poseable skeleton. “I guess once you set one of those up in your yard, you don’t just take it down on November First,” I mutter to Nancy.
She has her own theory.
“I think maybe it’s one of those skeletons that you fatten up throughout the fall, and then by late December, when it’s nice and plump, you can just put a red suit and hat on it. It’s really a very sensible and versatile decoration.”
I can’t wait to see the holiday transformer.
Moment Three: While eating french fries on Friday night, we have the unpleasant experience of dipping the fry into a blob of generic ketchup. I’m not really a super taster, but even I can tell this is a knock-off condiment. Nancy is repulsed. She heads out the next day to remedy the situation. She returns home distraught. It’s bad enough having to trek up and down every aisle at Stop ‘n Shop, (Our Stop ‘n Shop has recently embarked on one of those 52-Pick-Up type remodeling experiments. You know, where they dismantle all the shelves, dump the contents in randomly-chosen aisles and then take secret videos of the disoriented customers to air on some remake of Candid Camera?). Right, so it’s bad enough having to deal with that, but then to come home without the Heinz ketchup, well that’s just rubbing hot sauce in the wound.
We joke that it is probably a supply chain issue. Then, because I have more free time than usual (with that bonus “fall back” hour!) I Google “Ketchup shortage.”. Sure enough, The Wall Street Journal has an article about ketchup scarcity. I know you want to read it yourself, but I’ll summarize the tragic chain of events. 1. Pandemic hits U.S. 2. Hungry people resort to takeout. 3. Heavy demand for ketchup packets. 4. Food establishments run out of ketchup packets, raid Costco, and later ransack our very own Super Stop ‘n Shop.
Result: Innocent home consumers are forced to endure knock-off catsup.
Postscript: Nancy finds a guy in a shady lot selling Heinz ketchup out of the trunk of his Maserati. Crisis averted. Phew.
Moment Four: We come back from our Saturday walk with Farley to find another of our neighbors celebrating the Paris Climate Summit (not mentioned in Ms. K’s calendar overview) by sacrificing a healthy Maple tree. While I have tended to see things from the tree’s perspective, I realize that’s sort of a snowflake outlook. Upon further investigation, I’ve come to see things more clearly. The tree, it seems, is “not so innocent.” No. I’ve come to find out that this particular one has apparently been sucking up more than its share of the water from the in-ground sprinkler system. Talk about selfish. Speaking of which, I’ve had my own little epiphany. This afternoon, when I had to pick up after my slob of a maple tree for the second time in the same weekend, I thought, “It’s one thing to pick up after someone occasionally, but this habitual disregard for my free time is…well…exasperating. You speak to them sternly, trying to reason with them. They dip their boughs with apparent contrition, but then you turn your back for one day and they do the same thing, leaving their detritus all over the yard. I think we have a right to be indignant. Am I right? My neighbor also told me that that whole “lungs of the earth” stuff is fake news. “Lungs! Right!” she snorted. “When was the last time you heard a tree cough? Didja ever think of that?!” She had me there. And finally, you know trees have this reputation as the strong silent types, but my neighbor set me straight on that, too. “The darn maple is always throwin’ shade on my turf, and I’m tired of it. I’m takin’ her down.” So there, trees. Don’t mess with the righteous and well-educated suburbanite. She’s got chainsaws and she’s not afraid to use ‘em.
Postscript 2: Nancy says I may need to change my blog’s name to “More Grousing about Neighbors and Trees.” It’s kind of catchy.