Friday, December 23, 2005

December 23, 2005,

We woke at the Ramada Inn in Kodak Tennessee, near Gatlinburg. Our intention was to spend the day at Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s Tennessee theme park. Unfortunately the park did not open until 2:00, and had most of its neatest activities after dark. Staying to enjoy the parade and fireworks would have gotten us to Little Rock after 3:00 A.M. and it would have been hard to leave before they started, so we made other plans.

The area offers an enormous array of family friendly activities, everything from old fashioned amusement parks and minature golf courses to race tracks, an aquarium, and museums dedicated to subjects as diverse as veterans, knifes and dinosaurs. But for us, the premier attraction was Smoky Mountains National Park. On this cold morning we drove through icicle crusted cliffs into the appropriately smoky looking mountains to find Laurel Falls Trail. During a quick stop at the park visitor’s center Zachary, whose Daddy calls him Little Bear, surprised us by instantly spotting, identifying by name and running to the full grown stuffed black bear on exhibit behind glass.

At the Laurel Falls trail head, bundled up, the boys in gloves and hats, we crossed the highway to the trailhead where a sign announced “DANGER, falling deaths have occurred here. Keep strict control of your children!” We were a bit daunted, since the brochure Bob found at the motel had described this trail as “Very easy and wheel chair accessible”/ We talked to the boys about the sign and got agreement from both of them to hold an adult hand at all times. This had worked on the Louisiana boardwalk, so we trusted them and sallied forth.

The paved trail, 2/5 mile round trip. Took us uphill through a winter wood past mountain laurel, rhododendron and pine, all still green and a thick ,maze of bare maple, sumac, and dogwood. Danny loved finding the numbered nature trail markers, at each of which Bob read aloud about some feature of the terrain. We learned that lichen erode rocks and were alerted to the mountain view through a picture window in the trees. We found pine needles on the trail and Danny practiced identifying pine trees and learned the word “evergreen” as well as two more nature words “lichen” and “moss” He was also the first to hear the waterfall, our destination.

Laurel Falls, partially frozen into tangled pillars of ice, running freely in the middle, was a lovely culmination of our uphill walk.. Sixty feet in height, Laurel Falls towered above and tumbled below the bridge on which we stood. Bob pronounced it a “beautiful small waterfall”. All the way up and down the mountain, both boys were great hikers, bright eyed with curiosity and mindful of the dangers of steep drop offs. Both of them took pleasure in touching trees and rocks. Hiking with them was a joy – to be repearted many times this spring we hope.

After leaving the national park, the country’s most heavily used and free to the public since being bought by the states of Tennesssee and North Carolina/, we took the boys to a small museum which features Jurassic Park style life size models of dinosaurs. When Zachary first heard the roar from the twenty foot high T rex which loomed above us,, he practically jumped into Bob’s arms, as Danny had when he first visited this museum two years ago. Soon Zach’s natural courage reemerged and he approached and touched both the T Rex and the 30 foot long crocodile. Danny found over a dozen small flying dinosaurs and correctly noted which dinosaurs lived in the ocean based on whether they had flippers.

Riding through Tennessee at dusk we saw a Confederate flag flying from a stone tower and discussed the racist history of Tennessee, birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. A few miles down the road we stopped for supper at a Burger King with a play ground and happened upon an extended family’s birthday party for four of its children. The family members ranged from blondest pale nine year old through every shade of bronze and mocha. They were also very friendly and shared their birthday cake with the boys, who greatly enjoyed it.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My day started with birthday greetings at the breakfast table in Blacksburg. Ruth, Chris and Heidi had already left (in the virtual middle of the night) for early flights home. Sara and Fred Reed, Aunt Inez and Hazel visited until near lunch time, with breakfast table conversations topics ranging from family values on education to the fee and referral structures of the health care system today. Bob and I were in and out of the room as I worked on our laundry and packing and he copied the video from the wedding onto DVD so that Sarah and Peter can take it with him to show his family when they leave for Peru right after Christmas. During the afternoon Bob, Bill and I took the boys to Chik Filet so they could play on the indoor playgroud while we had a great visit. After supper the video was finished and we said our good-byes and bundled into the car for the long road home.

I am fifty five today. I don't know what that means really - what if any values to attach to having attained this particular age. When I free associate on a writing exercise, my thoughts about my age chrystalize a bit.

I am standing in a doorway. 55 is a doorway. Behind me lies a full house, generations of rocking chairs and china figurines, my grandmother's rice pot with a lid Daddy banged like a cymbol, against what I'll never know since everyone who could remember is dead. Behind me lie the rooms where I conceived my babies, rocked and nursed them, played board games on ancient green shag carpet and fought over potential piercings. Behind me lie the memories of their father, tossing pickle princesses in the air, rubbing their tummies on his head, singing along with Gordon Lightfoot or Don Williams. He died at 36. Who would he have been at 55? Who am I? Would he know me?

Behind me stands the house we bought with love, watched burn in terror, rebuilt, remodeled, the house Bob and I reclaimed as our family changed, remodeled again, chose to keep as our home. Before me, the sidewalk is familiar, and the street. But change is in the air - mist conceals mysteries - I cannot turn back, cannot pretend to be able to replay past chapters - no more babies at 55, no fantasies of adoption. Grandchildren run, tumble, leap around my feet.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Wedding day dawned cold and crisp, and proceeded at a quick but not frantic pace as Ruth bought the few napkins we still needed for the reception, and all of us dressed and primped. Putting the two little snowflake boys into their brand new suits was less or a production than I expected (one way boys are easer than girls). The pace was more frantic at the bride's house, I’m sure, as evidenced by her DadÂ’s statement, about two hours before the wedding, that he couldn't find a free bedroom or bathroom at home in which to change clothes.

The wedding was beautiful. The bridesmaids' outfits epitomized the blending of American and Peruvian cultures. They wore layered silky golden skirts, very fashionable in the US right now, with gorgeous deep red ponchos PeterÂ’s sister sent from Peru. The effect was graceful and elegant. Sarah, in a simply elegant white gown and her motherÂ’s wedding veil and Peter, whose smile was so bright I barely noticed his attire, vowed their troth with passion and tenderness.

Danny and Zachary, dapper in their suits once Danny got it that the tie is worn INSIDE the jacket, added to the procession. Danny scattered snowflakes from his basket as planned and Zach trailed his big brother, snowflakes remaining in the basket. They paved the way, without a hitch for the beautiful bride.

Sarah and Peter pledged their love to each other and their faith to God. Open prayers of the people tied the two people marrying to the world community as well as the community gathered in the chapel of SarahÂ’s childhood church.

The reception was fun. Danny and even Zachary surprised me with their ability to begin to learn some dance steps from their grown cousins. Watching reminded me of my own childhood – dancing in the SPJST hall – Czech Fraternal organization outside West. We kids danced among the grownups – learned from them, bothered them, delighted them. Everybody danced and you didn’t worry about being good at it any more than you worried about being good at walking. Now at Sarah’s wedding, the dancers were very, very good – but the feeling of dance as part of life reminded me of my own childhood.

The international flavor of Sarah and Peter’s community was exciting, and its warmth reassuring. They are loved by friends as well as family – will have the support they need to meet whatever life dishes out. On the family side, they are fortunate in the number of happy intact long term marriages in their parents’ and grandparents’ generation. Love filled the transformed church hall tonight – a night of celebration

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

In Jewish tradition the wedding procession has a deep and beautiful symbolism. In the old days, the village days, in Europe the bride’s and groom’s families walked with them from their houses to the synagogue – accompanying, blessing, and supporting the new couple as they move from their past histories into a shared future. It’s a symbolism I love, and one that was moved me deeply at Ruth’s wedding when Bob and I walked with her through a meadow of flowers to meet Chris and walk on toward the Chuppa with him. A similar meaning was expressed in a completely different way today as Sarah and Peter were helped by friends and family to transform the chapel and community hall of Sarah”s childhood church into a winter wonderland sprigged with snowflakes and reflecting Peruvian culture in rich colors and weaving.

When Ruth and I arrived in the morning the church basement was just a church basement – mix-matched chairs in the hall, high chairs from Head Start stored on the stage, table cloths and napkins still in their plastic, the giant banner meant to hang over the alter still unhung. Friends and family worked all day – changing out old chairs with the new chairs delivered to the church, arranging tables and flowers, and setting tables with brightly woven Peruvian cloths, holly and and cedar from Sarah’s childhood yard, and pottery candle holders Sarah had lovingly made as favors for her guests. Parents, friends, grandparents, Sarah.s sisters and Peter’s brother, aunts uncles and cousins all ironed, hauled, draped tulle, folded napkins, played music, and took video. In the end the chuch hall was transformed. More importantly Sarah and Peter were supported by their community as they prepared for the important transition of marriage.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Today I enjoyed being in the classroom with Bob. I think he's turning a corner with the fifth graders, though I know he is still frustrated with how often he has to tell them to be quiet. I had fun working with the newsletter team creating a small newsletter to be given out to the whole school. Writing a newsletter was a goal several of these kids had stated when Bob took over the class and they were proud to achieve it today. The kids were really excited and worked hard to get details right, to find their voices. They were delightfully young - excited about voting on names for the Newsletter and on the color paper they would print it on (a pale yellow) What follows is the "Menger Megaphone, as they wrote it with my help.

The Menger Megaphone


The Cheetahs are our Menger running team. Third, fourth and fifth graders can join the Cheetahs. Coach Medina is our coach. We practice from 3:15 to 4:00 Monday through Thursday, and sometimes on Saturday. We run races and we run very hard. It's great exercise. We like running. It feels good to be on a team. If you want to join Cheetahs, ask Coach Medina.
Alexandra Sanchez

Spelling Bee

Some of Menger’s best spellers competed in a spelling bee which finished up on December fourteenth. The first round was held in the cafeteria, and later rounds were held in Ms. Henna’s room. We were eager to see who would be the best speller. It was a close contest between Alyssa Garcia and Cody Spier, but Cody won. The winning word was “swallow” Both Cody and Marissa will go on to the city competition, with Cody spelling and Marissa as alternate. We wish them luck in moving on to the state spelling bee.
Richie Haas

Fundraising Time

Fundraising is big this year at Menger Elementary. Almost everyone is selling something to raise money for field trips. Our fourth graders are selling flavored popcorn for $1.00 a bag. This reporter likes the white cheddar best. You can buy popcorn in any fourth grade class. Fifth graders are selling World’s Finest Chocolate bars for $1.00 each. You can buy a bar from any fifth grader holding a white box of candy. Do popcorn and chocolate sound yummy? If so, bring money.
Alyssa Garcia
Sabreena Garza

Football Championship

The Menger football team was unstoppable. We had seven wins and no losses. In the final win against the Vikings, the Cowboys had 24 points to the Vikings 22. We were all excited when we won and even Coach Medina was so excited he jumped up in the air. Coach Medina had a video camera and got the game on tape. We took pictures after the game and then got our first place medals. We are proud of our football team.
Marcus Garcia

Choir Update

The Menger choir sang at the PTA meeting on December 8, 2005. After the first grade performed it was time for the choir kids to go on. As we approached the stage the flag fell and almost hit some people in the audience! The choir went on anyway and sang “Survive” and “Up on the Rooftop, The Rap”. The fifth grade girls sang a song with bells and the boys in the front row entertained the audience by playing air guitar. The concert ended with the arrival of our special guest, Santa Claus, who gave out candy canes and chocolate.

On Friday morning, December 9 at 9:00 the choir left on our field trip, excited to travel from place to place, singing our hearts out. We were most excited about our final stop, the port, our school’s adopter. The people at the port loved our songs and gave us a treat of Christmas cookies. After singing at the port we got an even bigger treat. We went to Peter Piper Pizza and played games. The day of the choir trip was a thrilling day.
Marissa Sanchez

Fall Fest

Fall Fest was great. Everyone was there (well, almost). The people who came had a blast. Some
people came in costume or with spray painted hair. You could throw a pie at some V.I.P.s including our principal, Ms. Wilson Ferris. People enjoyed the moon walk, the cake walk and eating nachos, pickles, pizza, and candy.
Richie Haas

Red Ribbon Picnic

The Red Ribbon Picnic took place on Friday, October 28 to remind us how important it is not to use drugs. Everyone had fun eating with friends and family. Our parents brought our favorite foods. Scruffy the detective dog came and danced with us. It was a big treat. This reporter had a very good time.
Alyssa Garcia

Megaphone Staff

Alexandria Sanchez, editor and reporter
Alyssa Garcia, reporter
Marcus Garcia, reporter
Saleena Garza, reporter
Richie Haas, reporter, photographer
Angelica Mendoza, reporter
Marisa Sanchez, reporter