12.31.2022 – Ahhhh freudenfreude!

Ahhhh freudenfreude!
that bliss that you will feel when
someone else succeeds

I am not much on bucket lists or New Year’s resolutions.

I have to say there is nothing on my ‘list’ that I need to do or just would like to do before I die that would make my life complete.

I am a sinner saved by grace and while I know I need to work out my Salvation with fear and trembling, I also KNOW that when I do die, bold will I approach the throne, confident and wrapped in the gift of that grace.

Not much I can do or see here on earth to improve on that in my back pocket.

As for resolutions, I guess if its worth doing, it worth doing now rather than the an arbitrary state-by-date set by a calendar devised by people a long time ago.

That being said, I admit I enjoyed reading 6 Ways to Strengthen Your Relationships in 2023, By Catherine Pearson.

In the spirit of the New Year and looking ahead (maybe not forward) to the 2023, I pass along Ms. Pearson’s 6 Tips.

  1. Assume people like you.
  2. Don’t underestimate small acts of kindness.
  3. Embrace the power of the casual check-in.
  4. ‘Turn toward’ your partner throughout the day.
  5. Acknowledge the ‘normal marital hatred,’ too.
  6. Cultivate ‘freudenfreude.’

That’s it.

The article does give some background on each tip, but just by themselves, if read introspectively, has just enough words to make the point.

And it’s is that last that really caught my eye.

Cultivate ‘freudenfreude’.

Ms. Pearson writes;

Unlike schadenfreude, when we take pleasure in others’ misfortunes, “freudenfreude” describes the bliss we feel when someone else succeeds — even if it doesn’t involve us.

There are benefits to sharing in someone else’s joy.

It can foster resilience and improve life satisfaction.


I was not aware of the word but maybe I was aware of the feeling.

My sister Mary once wrote of our Mother something like, that our Mom had the gift to enjoy and be proud of other people’s good fortune without being or appearing to be envious.


I think of my Mom at Church.

I remember how people would seek out my Mom to tell her things.

They got a job.

They finished school.

Their child was getting married.

It didn’t matter what.

But what ever it was, my Mom was excited and happy for the news and excited and happy in such a way that whoever was talking to her was pleased that she was excited and happy for them.

I remember a Sunday sermon where the Pastor was preaching on spiritual gifts.

He mentioned the gifts in the Bible like the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy.

Then he mentioned everyday things.

The gifts of song.

Some people can just sing, he said.

The gifts of teaching.

Some people can just teach, he said.

Then he said some people being happy, so happy they can just make you feel good.

Some people, if you just sit next to them, make you feel good.

Then he paused.

Then the Pastor pointed over to the left at my Mom.

“Go sit next to Mrs. Hoffman.”



At my Mom’s funeral, we all got a chance to say something about our Mom.

My brother Tim demonstrated calling my Mom with good news.

He took out a cell phone and showed how you would punch in her number and say hello when Mom answered and then tell her the good news.

He immediately took the phone from his ear and held it arms length.

And we all laughed.

Because, no matter the good news, Mom would SCREAM OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH and if you didn’t hold the phone away from your ear, you stood a good chance of losing an ear drum.

My Mom felt bliss expressed when someone else succeeded.


My Mom and my 4 youngest kids Lexi, Ellie Dasia and Jack

Seems like there hasn’t been a lot of freudenfreude going around lately.

A lot of schadenfreude in today’s world.

A lot of just plain meanness.

A lot of just plain ugliness.

A of lot of watching other people dealing with meanness and ugliness.

A little Freudenfreude …

The bliss we feel when someone else succeeds — even if it doesn’t involve us.

Ms. Pearson closes with this paragraph.

One easy way to experience more freudenfreude is to check in with your friends and loved ones about their small victories or the bright spots in their day.

Doing so turns you into a “joy spectator” — and gives you an opportunity to see the people around you at their best.

Going into 2023 I plan to engage freudenfreude.

Going into 2023 I want to take advantage of any opportunity to see the people around me at their best.

It can foster resilience and improve life satisfaction.

For both of us.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh freudenfreude!

Happy New Year.

12.30.31 – You get away with

You get away with
huge amounts craziness in
the hallway she says

The passage in question reads: You can get away with huge amounts of craziness in the hallway,” she says, “because it’s not an area you spend much time in.”

The passage in question is from the article: ‘You can get away with craziness in the hallway’: at home with colour expert Annie Sloan.

The article closes with this:

Throughout the house, one-off finds jostle for space, and picture frames hang slightly askew.

“Things do move around quite a lot,” admits Sloan.

“People tend to think that the house is done now, that I’m not going to do anything else.

But I think it’s a good idea to keep our homes in flux.

Everybody is in some way creative – I’m just very keen on helping people find that creativity.”

I have never heard of Annie Sloan.

But I like her.

I like her a lot!

And I feel the same way.

Everybody is in some way creative.

I’m just very keen on helping people find that creativity.

12.29.2022 – a reasonably

a reasonably
accurate and coherent
auto biography

one important thing!
don’t have a real story you
don’t have a real self

Two stanzas a six syllable word in the wrong spot.

Oh well, my blog, my rules.

Taken from the passage:

A reasonably accurate and coherent autobiographical narrative is one of the most important things a person can have. If you don’t have a real story, you don’t have a real self.

As it was written in the opinion piece, The Sad Tales of George Santos, by David Brooks, in the Dec 28, 2023 New York Times.

Mr. Brook’s comments:

America has always had impostors and people who reinvented their pasts.

(If he were real, Jay Gatsby might have lived — estimations of the precise locations of the fictional East and West Egg vary — in what is now Santos’s district.)

This feels different.

I wonder if the era of the short-attention spans and the online avatars is creating a new character type: the person who doesn’t experience life as an accumulation over decades, but just as a series of disjointed performances in the here and now, with an echo of hollowness inside.

12.28.2022 – taking everything!

taking everything!
Y’all wanna win the natty?
NOW … It starts right now!

In an article today in the Athletic, How did Michigan go from rock bottom in 2020 to back-to-back College Football Playoffs? (click headline to download PDF) by Bruce Feldman and Austin Meek, the writers wrote:

At 2:57 p.m., the smallest player who had been on the field during the Michigan–Ohio State game hopped on top of the Wolverines bench during a timeout at the start of the fourth quarter. Michigan, which hadn’t won in Columbus since 2000, clung to a 24-20 lead. It’s no stretch to think that the only people among the 106,797 in Ohio Stadium who didn’t expect the Buckeyes to rally and defeat eight-point underdog Michigan were dressed in all white on the Wolverines sideline.

But what all those other people thought didn’t matter. Certainly not to the player with the gold-tinged hair peeking out from a yellow Jumpman headband known to everyone inside the Michigan program as “Mikey.”

“I want all you guys to take a look at their sideline. Look at them!” Mike Sainristil, Michigan’s wiry nickelback and team captain, yelled to his teammates gathered around him, as he pointed across the field to the Buckeyes sideline.
“They have their heads down.

We know who the f— they are!

They are exactly who we thought they are! Let’s keep our foot on the gas. Keep executing.

Don’t give them anything.

Keep taking everything.

“Y’all wanna win the natty?

It starts right now!”

Each fall, there are hundreds of speeches that players make in-game during college football Saturdays to fire up their teams. But what happened on the Michigan sideline late in The Game felt different, perhaps because what followed over that next hour best illustrates just how much the balance in the Big Ten has shifted — and why Michigan football has re-emerged as a national powerhouse.

The Wolverines went on to shock the crowd in Columbus — and to make a point to the rest of the college football world — in the fourth quarter.

They outscored Ohio State 21-3 and piled up 174 rushing yards. Sainristil made the biggest defensive play of the game, flying across the field to swat a sure touchdown pass out of Buckeyes tight end Cade Stover’s mitts on a third-and-4. Michigan also intercepted Heisman hopeful quarterback C.J. Stroud twice.

The Buckeyes were ready to break, and they did. Michigan blew out Ohio State, 45-23.

I don’t know about you but this made me cry.

And I don’t care if you believe me or not because I feel, despite the playoff, the Natty is as mythical as a unicorn and the old style of voting for Number 1, and I just don’t care if Michigan wins out or not.

But there is no myth of what happened back in November.

The Buckeyes were ready to break, and they did. Michigan blew out Ohio State, 45-23.

And that is good enough for me.

The article winds up with: Sainristil said the player-led accountability started last season with a simple commitment to clean up the locker room every day, a responsibility the players took on independently.

This year, it extended to the way players arrange their shoes in the weight room, stacking them in a neat row to conserve space.

It’s a tiny detail, but that’s the whole point.

“If you can take care of these little details and make it a habit, the habits that really are important, the ones that matter the most on the football field, will be so much easier,” Sainristil said.

And those who remain, will be champions!

12.26.2022 – brilliant sunny day

brilliant sunny day
cloudless December blue skies
but can’t see the cold

We were out and about on Christmas Day in the Low Country of South Carolina, it was a brilliant sunny day.

The December sky was a deep blue.

And it was COLD!

I was standing on the bluff overlooking the May River, thinking of the hot hot hot days in the past that I have stood there.

I stood there in the Bluffton Breeze that is always blowing across the river to the Bluff.

It was for the Bluffton Breeze that people moved to Bluffton South Carolina in the first place with many of the area families building summer homes here to catch the refreshing breeze off the river.

Standing there on this brilliant sunny Christmas Day, I felt frozen.

I felt frozen and it came to me that, you can’t see cold.

Or can you?

I was reminded of the Weatherball of Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I grew up.

The Weatherball was this giant stainless steel ball on top of a bank building in downtown Grand Rapids.

It changed color with the weather.

And you could see it from all over the city.

There was a little rhyme that everyone in Grand Rapids could recite.

Weatherball red – warm weather ahead

Weatherball blue – cold weather in view

Weatherball green – no change foreseen

And it worked, though maybe not in the way the designers designed it.

I what I mean is, take for example, August in Grand Rapids, a soupy humid month.

80 degree days with 90% humidity is the norm.

When I was kid and my family would drive into Grand Rapids from the west on Lake Michigan Drive and get on the freeway that came across John Ball Park, the entire downtown would open up in front of us like a panorama.

The city would be hidden in a thick, humid haze.

And shining in this swampy morass was the Weatherball.

Glowing a smoky red in the haze, somehow the Weatherball made it seem warmer, stickier and more humid.

In the winter time, we would go sledding on a hill at Crestview School.

Nighttime the sky would be crystal clear and Orion would stretch over and all around us, from the top of the hill, we could see the lights of the city.

And shining above on the lights was the Weatherball.

Glowing a bright light blue, somehow the Weatherball made it seem colder, crisper and more freezing.

Perception drove reality and you could see warm and you could see cold.

At some point, the Michigan National Bank that owned the building where the Weatherball was located (the letter M N B blinked just below the Weatherball) made the decision that the Weatherball had to come down.

Somewhere along the line, I met someone who told me that it was their Dad, as a brand new-in-town Michigan National Bank Vice President, made the decision.

This person told me that their Dad was told that the giant tower on top of the building was starting to sway and when it rocked in high winds, the roof of the building was showing signs wear and tear and there was good chance the Weatherball could come crashing down.

This person said that their Dad made the decision to take down the Weatherball and spent the rest of his career with Bank being known as the ‘Man who wrecked the Weatherball.’

He may have been one of the most, well, I was going to say hated but that is a too strong term, yet anyone who heard the story did hate the guy so I will say, one of the most hated men who figured in the List of Great Things Grand Rapids Lost.

Other things on this list include the Grand Rapids City Hall which is almost more famous for an incident during its demolition when a young lady hand cuffed herself to a wrecking ball.

A lesser know incident that took place during the demolition was that two guys took sledgehammers and made their way up to the old bell town of City Hall and with the sledges, range the City Hall Bell one last time.

You can see this bell to this day outside the entrance to the Grand Rapids Public Museum and if you look closely you will the surface dotted with circles the size of 50 cent pieces where the sledge hammers made contact.

I had done some research on that bell when I worked for the Local History Collections of the Grand Rapids Public Library and I remember talking about to Bob, one of the security guards at the Library who was retired from the Grand Rapids Police Department.

I told Bob the story of the guys with the sledgehammers and he responded, “Do I remember that I night! I was the first cop on the scene and I had to make my way through the half demolished building and up the bell tower stair way with no railing using a flash light! It was crazy! I thought I was going to fall of the stairs or that the place was going to come down.”

I told my boss, then City Historian, L. Gordon Olson, that we had to make a oral history interview with Bob but nothing came of it.

And speaking of Gordon Olson, he WAS the most hated man who figured in the List of Great Things Grand Rapids Lost.

It was Gordon, you see, as Assistant Director of the Grand Rapids Public Museum, who had the whale removed from the original Museum building on Washington St.

Around 1900, the Public Museum acquired a complete whale skeleton (the origin of which is a little murky but chances are it was purchased from the State of Florida when Florida shut down their pavilion at the Great Columbian Exposition in Chicago).

The whale bones were on separate stands and the Museum would pack the whole thing off the Kent County Fair in Comstock Park and wrap the bones in canvas so you could take the Jonah experience and walk through the whale.

When a new building was built during the depression, the whale was proudly hung in the main gallery of the museum until the late 1970’s when Gordon had it taken down.

Gordon told me that if ever he spoke anywhere at any city function or gathering, and that fact that he was the guy who removed the whale was mentioned, he would get booed.

The boos might have toned down once the new museum was built and the whale skeleton was restored but for anyone who grew up with the old museum and pitching pennies on the whale’s tail from the 2nd floor gallery, Gordon was not well liked.

Gordon told me that he was caught in a bad spot and that the whale bones had started disintegrating and falling to the floor and it was only a matter of time before some one got hurt.

The funny part of the story is that Gordon told me how a giant scaffold had to be built at some expense to remove the skeleton.

Gordon said that about a month after the whale came down and the scaffold removed, he noticed a guy walking around the gallery, looking up at the ceiling.

Gordon knew what he was looking for but went up to him and asked anyway.

The man did indeed ask if there had been a whale hanging there at one time.

Gordon told him yes and that it had just recently been removed.

The man nodded and then asked how did they take it down?

It turned out the man was the guy who had hung the whale in the first place.

He pointed out some ring bolts still in the ceiling and showed Gordon how the skeleton had been suspended in such a way that had ropes been tied up through those bolts and PULLED UP, the entire frame was designed to then unlock and be lowered to the floor.

As I said, the whale was saved and can seen to this day at the new Grand Rapids Public Museum.

I am also happy to say that when I worked at WZZM, a co-worker did some research and found that the original Weatherball was sitting in a scrap metal yard and the station was able to buy the Weatherball, have the neon fixed and the restored Weatherball returned to the Grand Rapids skyline from a cell tower next to the WZZM station.

Maybe on brilliant sunny days in December in South Carolina you can’t see cold.

But I know what cold looks like.

It’s light blue and glows in a clear colder, crisper and more freezing way than you could have imagined it.

And because of that blue light, the coldness is clear and colder, crisper and more freezing way than you could have imagined it.

And if you are in Grand Rapids, Michigan in December, at night and you look west, you can see it too.

12.25.2023 – good to be children

good to be children
sometimes – Christmas, its founder
was a child himself

When this strain of music sounded, all the things that Ghost had shown him, came upon his mind; he softened more and more; and thought that if he could have listened to it often, years ago, he might have cultivated the kindnesses of life for his own happiness with his own hands, without resorting to the sexton’s spade that buried Jacob Marley.

But they didn’t devote the whole evening to music.

After a while they played at forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.

Stop! There was first a game at blind-man’s buff.

Of course there was.

And I no more believe Topper was really blind than I believe he had eyes in his boots.

My opinion is, that it was a done thing between him and Scrooge’s nephew; and that the Ghost of Christmas Present knew it.

The way he went after that plump sister in the lace tucker, was an outrage on the credulity of human nature.

Knocking down the fire-irons, tumbling over the chairs, bumping against the piano, smothering himself among the curtains, wherever she went, there went he!

He always knew where the plump sister was.

He wouldn’t catch anybody else.

If you had fallen up against him (as some of them did), on purpose, he would have made a feint of endeavouring to seize you, which would have been an affront to your understanding, and would instantly have sidled off in the direction of the plump sister.

She often cried out that it wasn’t fair; and it really was not.

But when at last, he caught her; when, in spite of all her silken rustlings, and her rapid flutterings past him, he got her into a corner whence there was no escape; then his conduct was the most execrable.

For his pretending not to know her; his pretending that it was necessary to touch her head-dress, and further to assure himself of her identity by pressing a certain ring upon her finger, and a certain chain about her neck; was vile, monstrous!

No doubt she told him her opinion of it, when, another blind-man being in office, they were so very confidential together, behind the curtains.

from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

12.24.2022 – Christmas in work ‘ouse

Christmas in work ‘ouse
paupers ‘earts full of goodwill
bellies full of beer

When I was in high school, I watched a Christmas TV movie titled The Gathering with my Mom.

The movie starred Ed Asner who, at that time, was at the top of his fame has the News Director on the Mary Tyler Moore show.

There were a lot of scenes in that movie that stayed with me like when Asner sets off a big box load of fireworks on Christmas Eve.

Another one in particular though was when the Asner character and his buddies gathered in the back of the kitchen for a recitation by Asner of what was claimed to be a poem titled, Christmas in the Workhouse.

It was bawdy and for the off color words, Asner would pause and his buddies would clink their glasses instead of saying the word.

For some reason I always thought the poem was by Charles Dickens.

But I was unsuccessful whenever I went looking for such a poem by Mr. Dickens.

For some other reason this scene came to mind recently and I dove into the Google to see if I could track it down.

First I was able to find the scene in question.

Watching the scene again for the first time since 1977, I caught that the buddies attributed the poem to Rudyard Kipling.

So into the google goes Kipling and Christmas in the Workhouse.

And what I got back was, a poem that appeared in The Gathering, a 1977 TV movie starring Ed Asner.

Full circle and the magic of the World Wide Web.

But there were other links, including a Wikipedia page for Christmas Day in the Workhouse or In the Workhouse : Christmas Day, a dramatic monologue written as a ballad by campaigning journalist George Robert Sims and first published in The Referee for the Christmas of 1877.

This is the Wikipedia version:

It is Christmas Day in the Workhouse,
And the cold bare walls are bright
With garlands of green and holly,
And the place is a pleasant sight;
For with clean-washed hands and faces,
In a long and hungry line
The paupers sit at the tables,
For this is the hour they dine.

And the guardians and their ladies,
Although the wind is east,
Have come in their furs and wrappers,
To watch their charges feast;
To smile and be condescending,
Put pudding on pauper plates,
To be hosts at the workhouse banquet
They’ve paid for—with the rates

Wikipedia states that the poem is a criticism of the harsh conditions in English and Welsh workhouses under the 1834 Poor Law. As a popular and sentimental melodrama, the work has been parodied many times.

I am not up on my history of the 1834 Poor Law but I bet they made it against the law to be poor and any one who dared to be poor was thrown into jail or a workhouse until such time as that person would no longer be poor.

Kinda like a law against someone being homeless but not providing a home for such a person I guess.

And the version that Ed Asner recites is one of those parody versions.

There were also enough links that it seems the parody versions were quite popular in those Brit Boarding schools and lots of people posted fond memories of learning and reciting.

So here is your toast, as recited by Mr. Asner.

Feel free to adapt and use as you can this holiday season.

‘Twas Christmas in the work ‘ouse,
The best day of the year,
And the paupers all was ‘appy,
For their guts was full of beer.

Now the master of the work ’ouse,
Strode them dismal ‘alls,
And wished the men ‘Merry Christmas,’
And the workers hollered, “—–.”

Now the master he grew angry,
And swore by all the gods,
“They’ll ‘ave no Christmas pudding,
The lousy lunk of sods.”

When up stood a war scarred veteran,
Who’d stormed the Khyber Pass,
And said, “You can take your Christmas pudding
And stuff it up your a….!”

12.23.2022 – when the sessions of

when the sessions of
sweet silent thought summon up
remembrance things past

Crestview Elementary 1967
Not the class in question – but the same kids, same gym, same Principal and note the Student Teacher on the far left

Shamelessly stolen from Big Bill’s Sonnet XXX:

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:

When sleep is hard to find, it is helpful to ease my mind into sessions of sweet thought and remembrance of things past and take up my time while hoping for sleep.

Hard to feel my time is dear or that time is dear to me, as the old woes crowd in on new ones.

And there is so much past to remember at this time of year.

Christmas time.

Remembrance of Christmas times past.

The remembrance that comes to mind is one of singing.

Singing at school.

A simple, sweet act of singing a Christmas carol with your class in front of a gym full of parents.

A simple act of pure terror.

I don’t know about things today, but my days at Crestview Elementary School in Grand Rapids, Michigan where I grew up, had a lot of singing.

Each day started with the class singing a patriotic song, America the Beautiful or My Country ‘Tis of Thee.

Then a couple of times a month, the Grand Rapids Public Schools Music Teacher assigned to Crestview would show up and talk about music and even, as I remember it, play current top records and teach us songs to sing.

And at Crestview, once a month of so, the entire school would get together for a gym sing in the gym where all the kids sat on the floor and sang.

I remember that copies of a chorus book of some kind would be handed that had just the words of the songs, not bothering with the music as no one could read music.

We didn’t really need the chorus books either as we knew the words to most of the songs.

We sang mostly American Standards like Grand Old Flag and Yankee Doodle and Over Hill, Over Dale.

That one was a favorite for the line, “For its HIGH HIGH HEE in the FIELD ARTILLERY, COUNT OFF YOUR NUMBERS LOUD AND STRONG … and with one voice, everyone in that gym yelled out ONE – TWO.

We also loved a song about lunchtime that I had to search out just now.

The Google says the song is Today is Monday and the verses went:

Today is Monday, today is Monday.
Monday bread and butter.
All you hungry Soldiers,
We wish the same to you …

Each line of the song was a different day and there was something different to eat.

As you sang through the song, you had to repeat all the days:

Today is Tuesday,
Today is Tuesday,
Tuesday string beans
Monday bread and butter.

The highlight of this song was Wednesday because the line for Wednesday was:

Wednesday Soup.

But not soup.

But SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU – ooooooooooop with the ooooooop being a loud austrialian rising interrogative.

Maybe half the gym sang the song but everybody and I MEAN EVERYBODY hit the suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-ooooooooooooooooop-peh.

The sound made the gym floor vibrate.

I can still hear and feel it.

Now a bit of digression, I will end up back in the gym with this song, another thing that happened often or often enough at Crestview that we always talked about it was a Fruit Roll.

A day would be picked and the word would go out and everyone would bring a piece of fruit to class and hide it in their desk and a some point, someone would yell FRUIT ROLL and we would get our piece of fruit and roll it down the aisle to the front of the class.

Understand this meant as to be something nice for your teacher.

The teacher got to bring all the fruit home.

A Fruit Roll was supposed to be a surprise but as Crestview was a neighborhood school and most kids went home for lunch, the teachers had to notice either the fruit being smuggled into the room or the smell of ripe apples and bananas hidden in our desks.

A goofy thing about this is that the teachers bought the into the Fruit Roll as something that was a part of our school.

One year, as I remember it, there was a student teacher at Crestview that everyone liked and when her term finished up, a teacher came up with the idea that it would nice if the her class had a fruit roll for her on her last day.

This plan grew until it was decided to have a school wide fruit roll, in the gym, during a gym sing.

The teachers decided that signal to roll the fruit would be the Today is Monday song.

And the word went out to all the classes that when we got to the line about Friday, instead of singing:

Today is Friday,
Today is Friday,
Friday fish
(and it was sung fiiiiiii-ISH)

We would sing:

Today is Friday,
Today is Friday,

And then the whole school was supposed roll their fruit at this poor student teacher.

Whoever thought this one up did not think this one through.

There aren’t the words I need to describe what happened.

Because the entire thing went off just as it was planned.

We filed into the gym and sat on the floor.

The student teacher was introduced by the Principal who told the student teacher we wanted to sing her a song.

The student teacher stood in front of all of us.

Tears in her eyes.

We started singing Today is Monday, Today is …

I tell you, you could feel electricity build up like a thunderstorm in that gym as we went through each verse.

The suspense was Hitchcockian.

We got to line about Friday.




And some 300 kids threw a piece of fruit at this poor student teacher.

I think I was in third grade.

I loved it.

Organic planned chaos.

Had it been a prank it would have been in contention for greatest school prank ever.

But it wasn’t a prank.

It had been planned by my teachers.

The Principal was in on it.

I was so proud to live in a country where things like this could happen!

I remember standing in about the 4th row, fruit flying every where.

The student teacher and the Principal hid behind the piano.

The noise, I don’t mean screams or yells, it was just NOISE, a roar, was overwhelming.

Apples, oranges, bananas and bunches of grapes were everywhere.

Someone hippie type threw a green pepper that exploded marvelously on the wall.

I want to say an entire pineapple went flying by.

I was hugging myself hard and jumping up and down and laughing so hard I thought I was going wet my pants.

And it went on and on.

The teachers, worried about low turn out I guess, had brought grocery bags of apples and the big sixth graders in the back row of the gym found the fresh ammunition and they kept the fruit flying.

It went off so perfectly wrong that the grown ups were caught off guard and didn’t move in time to try and stop it and by the time they did try, it was too late.

In the middle of all this, and this is as clear to me as any part of this memory, my teacher, my 3rd grade teacher, Miss Reynolds, who always had an eye on me, walked up to me.

She kind of understood that this fruit roll, on the whole, appealed to my nature about what higher education was all about.

It was like she wanted to say, you’re really enjoying this aren’t you, except she didn’t have to say it.

We looked at each other and we knew.

And then she handed me one last great big shiny apple.

And she looked me in the eye and said, “JUST MAKE SURE YOU ROLL IT.”

I really wanted to throw it as hard as I could, but this, I felt, was a matter and moment of trust and I rolled that apple down the gym floor.

It was the last piece of fruit in the great Friday Fruit Roll.

Some teacher came in with a box and all the fruit was picked.

The Janitor came and looked at the wall and started wiping up the green pepper.

And, I think, the Principal called for the next song.

I went to that same school for the next 3 grades.

Nothing like that ever happened again.

It was in that same gym that the school held the school programs for Parents.

Each December the Music Teacher would assign each class a Christmas Carol.

Each class would spend a month learning that song.

I was always envious of any class that got We Three Kings because they seemed to have so much fun hitting the OOOOOOO on OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH-OOOOOO Star of Wonder.

It happened every winter.

There was no escape.

No one asked if you could sing.

No one asked if you wanted to be in a choir.

Each class, each and everyone in each class, sang.

I have seen TV shows and Movies that have scenes of a locker room where a football team is getting ready for their game.

The moody silence.

The anxiety.

The focus.

The fears.

Those scenes in those locker rooms were nothing like what we went through in those classrooms waiting for our turn to file down the hallway and enter the gym from a side door and line up on the stage in front of row upon row of parents.

What I remember thinking is how come no asked me if I WANTED to do this.

One year I did ask raise my hand in class and asked WHY we had to this.

I remember that the answer was our parents wanted to see us.

We were doing this for them.

But I was 8th of 11 kids.

I knew what my Dad was saying at home about having to go to another school program.

At least for my parents, they had a good shot of having 4 of 5 different kids in different classes up there singing.

It was full night of entertainment for them.

They got to see a lot of performers.

And I wasn’t so sure that my Parents wanted to see me up in front of a couple hundred other parents.

Things just happened to me.

Or things seemed to happen because of me.

I never really felt responsible for these things either.

That’s why I enjoyed the Fruit Roll so much,


As it had to, our turn came.

We walked single file out in the hall.

The class that sang before us would file past with faces full of light and relief.

We had to pass another class that had taken seats on the benches in the hallway to wait their turn on the stage after us.

It was like walking past a bunch of paratroopers waiting to bail out over Normandy.

And then it was out turn.

Through the door and into the gym that somehow was brighter than it was during the day.

The music teacher would be at the piano playing a soft introduction to the carol we were about to sing.

It was warmer than usual as the gym was filled with people and most of us boys had on Christmas sweaters.

For some reason, I always seemed to be in the front row.

I think one year I was in the back and managed to fall down the side stairs behind the stage.

And then we sang.

There was the magic of 25 little kids, on the three steps of a small stage in a small gym, singing Silent Night.

It had to be magic.

Once we stated singing, we started forgetting.

Forgetting how hot my sweater was.

Forgetting the crowd.

Forgetting the green pepper stain on the wall.

And we sang.

We all survived.

It was Christmas time.

And the sweet remembrance of time past takes the bad part out of most memories.

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d, and sorrows end.

PS: The entire sonnet XXX

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan th’ expense of many a vanish’d sight;
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d, and sorrows end.

12.22.2022 – they made circles and

they made circles and
curlicues squiggledy things
saved for Christmas

One morning she boiled molasses and sugar together until they made a thick syrup, and Pa brought in two pans of clean, white snow from outdoors. Laura and Mary each had a pan, and Pa and Ma showed them how to pour the dark syrup in little streams on to the snow.

They made circles, and curlicues, and squiggledy things, and these hardened at once and were candy. Laura and Mary might eat one piece each, but the rest was saved for Christmas Day.

From Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder, New York: Harper, 1953 (New York and London: Harper, reprint of the 1932 edition)