Wow. It’s Friday December 17. Next Friday is Christmas Eve. This is the way it happens every year – the planning is so much fun, I always think I’m ready early, and then boom! still have the newsletters to send out, etc. But this year I am in good shape. Now it’s time to enjoy.
I have a few more ornaments to talk about. Not that they are that significant or important, but just because I got started on this as a way to take a walk through a life. Now I see that if I’d taken them chronologically, I would have a timeline.
Yes, it is. It’s a Starbucks ornament. I’ve spent many pleasurable hours in Starbucks with family and friends. This is a nice reminder. Although it’s now a reminder of how pricey it’s getting there. Doesn’t keep me out, though. I just get less expensive drinks.
THIS is precious. My three girls went to elementary school at Franklin in downtown Bakersfield. It was a great school, great teachers, and just a block from our house. In those days, the “old” days, the school had a Secret Shop. I don’t know, perhaps the PTA sponsored it, but my kids shopped there. One year one of them gave me this – it’s lost a few reindeer along the way but I put it out every Christmas. Something about the tacky plastic santa and sleigh, and the beauty the kids must have found in it, makes it so precious. I have something else they purchased at that Secret Shop – a shoehorn that hung on a hook. It has an Old West look to it. I use it all the time. That plastic shoehorn is as tough as the West it emulated.
The Mouse King. Nutcracker. As a child I played the music over and over. When we moved to Bakersfield we started going to see the Civic Dance Center production of Nutcracker. This is an amazing ballet school and their production is just the best – nothing amateur about it. Also, they dance with live music from the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra. The dance studio is owned by Cindy and Kevin Trueblood. When I was teaching 7th grade at Fruitvale, along came a student one year named Mason Trueblood. He is Cindy and Kevin’s son and the most delightful young man you can imagine. Funny, too. And a beautiful, accomplished dancer. I watched Maso (as I called him) play many roles in the productions.
Why did I call him Maso? Because on a standardized test, he asked why his name showed as Maso. The answer was easy – there wasn’t enough room for the “N” to print. And a nickname was born. And see how much of a story I can get from the ornament of the mouse king?
I first saw the wiener mobile at Stop and Shop Market in Studio City, where I grew up. It was thrilling! To see a big truck shaped like a hot dog is almost a fantasy, but there it was. So when Hallmark put out this ornament, I had to buy it. It even plays the song: “Oh I wish I was an Oscar Meyer wiener, that is what I’d truly like to be. Cause if I was an Oscar Meyer wiener, everyone would be in love with me.” Strangely enough, one of my grandkids saw the wiener mobile just the other day here in Bakersfield. That was marketing genius – 50 some years later, still chugging along.
This is the last ornament I’ll write about. Jackie Robinson. Oh the memories this evokes on so many levels. First, baseball itself. I’ve been a Dodger fan since they were the Brooklyn Dodgers and Jackie Robinson wowed the world as the first black man to play major league baseball. Robinson was a marvel – quiet and dignified, an elegant player with a sort of pigeon-toed walk.
Next level is the historic Jackie Robinson. I coached teams of students in a national competition called History Day for many years. The competition has three levels – local, state and national. My marvelous principal at Fruitvale Jr. High, John Hefner, was big on history day. He did lots of things last minute but they always worked. One day I was standing outside his office and he poked his head out and asked me to come in. Three students were in there and John told me they were doing history day, they needed a topic. I said oh no, John, I wasn’t coaching history day this year. Oh, he understood, but would I just give some ideas? That day was the deadline for entry forms and this group needed a topic. Ok, I said, – Branch Rickey. Who was Branch Rickey? The Brooklyn Dodgers general manager responsible for integrating baseball. Without Branch Rickey, there would have been no Jackie Robinson. So Branch Rickey it was.
I did end up coaching the project. As I type this I’m cuddled in a blanket made for me by the kids, a blanket of baseball material and fleece and signed by the three. Another memory. But the project itself – heaven for a baseball fan. We had a video conference and tour with a historian in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame. We interviewed Branch Rickey’s nephew; Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s widow; Buzzie Bavasi, a consummate baseball man who was with the Dodgers; Don Newcombe, the second black man to play in the bigs, the list goes on and on. The kids went all the way to nationals.
The next layer of memory is about this ornament itself. Jacob George, a fellow teacher at Fruitvale, was also a baseball fan and he coached history day. He saw how much the project meant to me and he gave me this ornament. It was his and he so generously gave it to me. Jacob moved on to another job up north, and I’ve lost touch with him. But Jacob, if you should ever by a small miracle read this, I’m so grateful still for the gift of this ornament.
This plus the last three posts are just a smattering of the dozens of ornaments on the window, all of them telling stories. And now that I’ve started, I think I’ll continue for myself so the kids will know what these all are – if they should one day care. Plus – I’ll have this to remember from when I wonder myself why I have something.
Season’s greetings to everyone, whoever you are and whatever you celebrate. We celebrate Christmas and Chanukah, but my theory is, you can never have too many celebrations!