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,
Friday FRUITROLL

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.

We sang, TODAY IS FRIDAY TODAY IS FRIDAY.

FRIDAY ….

FRUITROLL!

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,

It REALLY WASN’T MY FAULT for once.

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.

One thought on “12.23.2022 – when the sessions of

  1. Mike-this is beautiful! Thank you! I so remember singing as well and especially the
    S-O-U-P song. We were blessed to attend such a special school in the best community with such loving family and friends. Back in the day when everyone helped raise little ones. Sending much love to you and yours at Christmas and always. Marie Jarosz Loveland

    Like

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