Saturday, December 6, 2008

Holiday Musings

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I was listening to a report on the radio about a study on the effects of having happy friends. It found that happy people cluster together. (And, to the opposite effect, unhappy people cluster together. No surprise.) It also found that having one happy friend can increase your happiness by 7-9%. Not sure how they gauge that, but I figured I had at least 15 happy friends, so that makes me at least 100% happier in life. Thanks for increasing my Happiness Factor.

Now it is time for a report of the mundane activities of my happy life.

Several things I discovered this week:

First off: It is December. I have a classroom full of six year olds who know (cue music) "Santa's on his way, he's loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh. And every mother's child will try to spy, to see if reindeer really know how to fly...." Which does not leave enough spare brain activity to write sentences that start with capitals and end with periods, or to complete a 100s chart in math with all the 3s and 5s facing in the correct direction. Not that it matters right now. We had assemblies 4 mornings this week (and I was in charge of one of them) and Holiday Musical practices three afternoons. Let's continue to hide from the parents that not a lot of learning goes on during December. I'm just reporting the facts. Because I am a happy friend.

I was told "If X does not stop throwing things at the audience, he will not be allowed to participate in the Christmas Musical". This would make a wonderful title for a short story. (These kids just keep handing me free material.)

Faculty Christmas Parties of elementary teachers involve alcohol. I am in my 50s. I do not know why this fact still surprises me. I think it is because of the time in 1968 at Robert E. Lee Elementary in Austin, Texas when I pushed open the teacher's lounge door without knocking and found my beloved fifth grade teacher Miss Sanders SMOKING. It was a dark day for me. I found out teachers were not perfect. The upside to Faculty Parties is there are always a lot of great dishes involving too much butter and cream cheese. (And of course, let's give a shout out to our Social Chairman J! At last year's party we wore our worst Christmas sweater.Mine was weighted down by approximately 20 pounds of sequins in the shape of a poinsettia. It was a gift from the student of ANOTHER teacher who passed it off to me. I passed it off to Goodwill on the way home from the party. This year, J suggested we all wear our favorite Christmas earrings. We are teachers. We have a lot of "special occasion" earrings. I think J said she laid hers out and had 14 pair. The only challenge here is taking them off to let your earlobes have a breather so you don't look like a Zulu by the end of December.)

There is a tipping point to Holiday Goodwill. A music teacher who tells teachers, "You only have to watch your students for 15 minutes" before the evening version of the Holiday Program...and then sends out a memo to parents that the children should be "dropped off in their classroom 30 minutes early" and then picked up "from the classroom after the other grade is finished an hour later" needs to know that her days at Holiday Staff Parties may be limited. Our compromise may be using the gym as the Holding Tank before the program, and then putting the parents in charge when their children exit the stage. Because I will be home in my jammies by that time.

Christmas in an Empty Nest takes on a whole new timeline. If the kids are not going to be home until December 24, then the tree and decorations do not have to be up until December 24! That just freed up my entire month. My sister R helped me get all the Christmas Stuff out of the attic this week. (Several things I learned there: next year R wants to be the one handing the stuff DOWN from the attic...apparently, I have a slippery grip when things are aimed at her pretty little head. I may just keep the holiday stuff in a closet in the house from now on to avoid the yearly pilgrimage up to the attic. And (how sad is this?) last year I gave a LOT of Christmas Stuff to Goodwill that the flown-the-nest children did not want. I actually wrote myself a note in big letters and packed it away in the boxes so I would remember "THE ANGELS WERE DONATED TO GOODWILL IN 2007." In my defense, I'm sure it saved me a lot of fruitless searching this year.)

What is not to love about Gift Cards as Christmas gifts? I can do all my shopping in one place at one time for the out of town friends and relatives. And these gifts can be mailed with one stamp. So I do not have to stand in That Line at the Post Office. (I still had to stand in That Line for ONE HOUR yesterday because I got a registered letter that turned out to be NOTHING THAT MATTERED and I may bill the sender for My Time. But I'm not bitter. I'm the Happy Friend. Hohoho.)

Last year's Josh Groban "Noel" tape is still as wonderful as it was last Christmas. (Thanks, K!)

If you are offered the choice of the December Church Ladies' Friday Night Dinner or Saturday Morning Brunch, choose the morning brunch. What was I thinking by going to a dinner at 7:00 pm after a December week in first grade? On a real night that is 2 hours past dinner time, 2 hours before bedtime and 2 hours I would have already spent in my favorite flannel pjs. When I could have been oh so fresh as a daisy at the Saturday Brunch.

My husband and I want to do the Christmas Stuff we used to do with the kids. We had a great lineup for years when they were home: The Georgetown Christmas Stroll, The Salado Christmas Stroll, the Austin Trail of Lights, 37th Street in Austin...You catch my drift. We really want to do those things! But the reality of navigating though crowds with D's walker is causing us to rethink some of them. Let's just say our date to see Jordan Sparks light the Christmas Tree at the Domain Shopping Center in Austin (followed by fireworks) will not be a repeat next year. (Unless it is Josh Groban lighting the tree. Or Barry. As in Manilow. We would shamelessly use the walker as a front row pass in that case... But I digress.)

So. There you have it. So much wisdom gained against the backdrop of the Christmas Season. Hope I saved you the journey to learn some of these things. (You're welcome.)

But the most important lesson of all this time of year comes from a former first grade student, C, who burst out after studying all the holidays around the world and found the one he knew the best:"Oh, the baby Jesus I KNOW the baby Jesus!"

So do I, C, so do I.

Love, R
Member of the Group of Happy Friends


Craig Weeks said...

Maybe I'm not an original thinker but I sure can provide pithy commentary on the works of others. Maybe you prefer your own adjective. Fine. It's a free country. This one, Mrs. O, is so laden with opportunity that I probably will not be able to take full advantage, but here goes.

Jack Webb would be relieved at your forthcomingness regarding what actually happens in a first grade classroom in December. Your younger readers, of course, are right about now looking back at the Jack Webb reference and saying to themselves "What the ...?". Or maybe they think you went to school with him. Whatever. But you and me and Mr. O ... we get it.

You write of "too much butter and cream cheese". The professional linguists no doubt have a Latin phrase for such a reference. It translates roughly into "contradiction of terms". I just thought you should know.

You and your jammies seem to have some kind of thing goin' on. Multiple references and all.

I cannot decide if your sister is grateful for the "pretty" reference. You two will have to work that out.

Notes about Christmas decorations for future reference. You ... my mom ... and me (to a lesser degree than my mom). No need to put up a defense. We may be odd but we are not alone.

Tape? Can you still buy cassette tapes?

When Mrs. W reads that stuff about choosing a breakfast brunch over dinner she won't be surprised ... but neither will she be able to understand ... at a gut level. I'm with you. I would rather be on the first tee at sunrise that go to a midnight showing of "Blazing Saddles".

Ms. ~K said...

My heart aches for you...being locked up w/ a bunch of first graders this time of year...chuckle!
But, believe it or not, having no children or my own, I certainly miss experiencing the "magic" of the season through a child's eyes...
Take care....