Tag: School

A Week in the Life

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. 

Super-sized skeleton before transformation.

The Voice

I pulled into my driveway.  The sky was clear and the late afternoon air was still crisp, the way September should always feel.  It had been a busy day at school.  I was glad to be home.  I pulled into the garage and walked into the house.  It appeared that no one was home.  As I climbed the stairs to the kitchen, though, I found my father seated at one end of the dining room table.  Dinner was served, so I sat down and we dug in.  We had a nice chat, the first one that he could actually participate in for as long as I could remember.  His hearing seemed much better than it had been in our last conversation.  

We polished off the burgers, potato salad, and corn on the cob, wiped our chins in perfect sync, and sat back in our chairs. We toted our things to the kitchen.  It all seemed so ordinary.  Dad had asked me about Nancy and Sarah and wondered where Farley was.  I told him Nancy had been working hard at Horizons, Sarah was working hard at P.A. school, and come to think of it, I had no idea where Farley was.   I had asked him about his mom and dad and brother and whether he’d been able to track down Emma. “Not yet,” he said, “but I’ll find her.”

“Good,” I’d said to him. “We miss her.”

I started loading the dishes in the dishwasher.  I thought it was a bit odd that he was letting me do it.  Maybe it was because he had made dinner.  I couldn’t recall him ever cooking before.  I also couldn’t recall him letting someone else load the dishwasher before.  He’d always been very particular about it.  It was one of his special skills, and it was hard to teach.  This time he let me do it all by myself.  Well, I was 60 now, a big boy, at least in the dishwasher loading sense, so I guess I was old enough to handle this task at my own house.

I told Dad I had some work to do, and headed upstairs…to my old childhood bedroom, where I found my laptop at the desk where my electric typewriter had sat 40 years ago.  I opened the lid and began browsing for materials to share with my class tomorrow morning.  I found several intriguing videos.  The narration on one was uncanny.  It fit perfectly (almost identically) with the articles I had just copied that afternoon on the Battle of Saratoga.  In fact, the video was so intriguing that I found myself clicking on others in the series.  In each one, I seemed to know all the words before the narrator finished his sentences.  I must have lost track of time, because when I finally emerged from the video rabbit hotel, I had a strange feeling that I had overstayed.  Would they charge me for that?

I glanced at my watch.  7:10, it said.   That seemed to jiggle a memory loose.  I had somewhere I needed to be tonight, but I couldn’t remember where.  Oh, that’s right.  Tonight is  Back to School Night.  I stood up and headed to the bathroom.  It’s a good idea to brush your teeth before you meet a roomful of parents.  I wondered aloud, “What time does Back to School Night begin?”

I pulled a sheet of paper out of my back pocket.  It was completely out of focus.  I pulled it closer to my face and then away from my face.  Still blurry.  I held it under the bathroom light.  That was better. I scanned the schedule. “Oh, it starts at 7:00.   That’s funny, I think my watch said it was 7:10 already.  WAIT, WHAT?!  It’s 7:10 and there are parents in my classroom right now?  And they’re wondering where I am?”

My heart was suddenly galloping.  I decided not to brush my teeth.  I considered throwing up. That would be more appropriate.  Had I ever done this before? Just forgotten to show up for Back to School Night?  I couldn’t remember.  Maybe.

Suddenly a vision formed.  It was Mrs. F. who had already emailed me about 30 times this year.  She was standing in the main office, hands waving wildly as she shouted at the secretary.  “Has ANYONE seen Mr. von Euler?  He hasn’t shown up for his presentation.  That seems VERY unprofessional to me.”  Spit flew from her mouth as she emphasized the P in Presentation.  I wondered if she had brushed her teeth.

A large man stood off to the side.  He was more succinct.  “You’re fired.”

Back in my bathroom, panic thoughts rushed through my head.  Should I call the school?  Should I tell them I lost track of time?  Should I tell them about the uncanny parallels between the text of the video narration and those articles that I had copied?  Should I tell them about the unexpected visit from my recently-deceased father?  Should I say that I was caught in traffic and I’d be right there?   But I was in my childhood home.  How far was that from school?  I think about five hours… or forty years.  That wouldn’t work.  Very few parents would wait five hours for a teacher’s presentation.  The desks and chairs are very small.  And wait.  Where is Nancy?!  Where is Farley?!

I sat bolt upright in bed. The room was dark.  I looked over at the clock, my heart still pounding.  4:21.  Oh, thank God.  I looked to my right.  Nancy was fast asleep.  I shook my head.  “Like clockwork,” I thought, “the calendar flips to August and the anxiety nightmares begin.  This’ll go on all month.”

Then, as I slowly regained consciousness, another thought came into focus.  “Wait a second.  I retired on July 1.”

I flopped back down, nestled my head on my pillow, closed my eyes and sighed, trying to slow my breathing.  “I never have to do another Back to School Night presentation in my life.”

“Well, not in your waking life,” said a voice in my head.  “Sweet dreams.”