Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Pioneer Days

Spring -- the season of field trips, class parties, and mandatory paperwork concerning same -- is here.

At a recent parents' meeting, I learned that the third graders' spring was kind of a big deal. In May and June, they would learn to swim, re-enact olden times at a historic mansion, dress up on certain school days ("Pioneer Days") for role-playing games, and perform an original musical play about -- if I heard this correctly -- "biomes."

My memories of third grade were of an orange-haired old woman shushing us while we tried not to punch each other and/or wet our pants. How things had changed! Third grade was now a magical journey through the elements and Time itself.

Busy practicing a series of throat-kicks for a martial arts tournament, my son took this in stride. He was accustomed to a certain amount of educational razzle-dazzle. When I mentioned I'd spent third grade sitting alone on a stump, reading library books about The Boxcar Children, he was like: "That's sad, Mom. Can I borrow your phone and go watch YouTube now?"

Well, I for one was jazzed about all the upcoming opportunities!

First, I volunteered to be a driver for the field trip to the historic house. Putting aside disturbing memories of last year's spring field trip -- when, blinded by eye-watering allergies after a farm tour, I had to drive three boisterous boys back to school ("Be quiet! I can't see!") -- I indicated on the form that I could take three kids. No problem!

Next, I began plotting to secure the best job offered to parents that day: churning butter. Oh, how I wanted to churn butter and not be stuck in some "barn scavenger hunt" nonsense! The hell with the barn! We'd all seen a barn! Perhaps if I arrived in period dress, it would give me an edge?

Third, I considered killing two birds with one stone and getting married at the historic house. Dave could take the day off work, and we could do it in a flashmob. Just let me put down this churning stick and -- hey, Mom! glad you could make it! -- stand before these splendid columns while I recite my vows . . . Then I imagined my son's eyes pleading me not to embarrass him with a flashmob wedding, but just to show up, take my post in the barn, and hand out snacks like all the other moms. Oh, all right!

After the field trip came the pioneer party. On a yellow posterboard on the classroom wall, I signed up for the task of making corn cob dolls for two hours on party day.

Two hours! It was one thing to make a corn cob doll (how hard could it be?), but quite another to guide a rotating cast of nine-year-olds through the process until my hands blistered from cobbing.

One thing was certain: After two hours dressing corn cobs, I would be a master of the form. Increasingly, I would sneer at the children's pedestrian efforts ("That's a very derivative cob, Dylan. I've seen that one a thousand times!") while pushing out in bold new directions.

My cob dolls would start out insipid -- buttons for eyes, a scrap of calico -- but soon evolve into Impressionist cobs, Cubist cobs, Dada cobs, cobs that problematized the arbitrary and oppressive binaries of male/female, black/white, and corn/carrot.

Meanwhile, the third graders would be grubbing around in my bucket of cob bling. No! I must have peace!

From across the room, I would summon my son for a private chat.

"Can you get these kids out of here? I'm working on something -- not to brag, but -- I think it could be pretty important."

"Sure thing, Mom."

Biome performance? I got nothing.

I don't even know what that word means.

(Image: Churn by Pearson Scott Foresman [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)


  1. great post, honey .. biome (had to look it up) = a large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat, e.g., forest or tundra.

    1. Now just imagine that set to music . . . ?

  2. Fantastic blog...I've signed up for the quills and ink so will be an interesting experiment in patience....

    1. Thanks Vanessa! Quills & ink sounds like fun...