November 25: “What in the world is a switch?” I asked. Pausing his explanation about the decline of the NBA “big man,” Nate grabbed two yellow water glasses and two red soda glasses and began to move them around. “Screen; switch.” The red glass moved right and the gold glasses swapped places. Again: the red glasses set a screen and the yellow glasses on defense adjusted. A final red offensive play; a final gold defensive response.
Nate’s hands moved deftly across the restaurant table. But Jeremiah had a question. Kevin, Nate and I leaned in. “Which is my Diet Coke?”
Bonus: Happy Birthday, dearest Nathaniel. You are a gifted teacher and a kind and generous man. I love you dearly.
November 26: I’d noticed a few months ago that someone had weeded and re-sanded the old horseshoe court in a quiet corner of our neighborhood park. Today, platters of food and a tournament bracket rested the adjacent picnic tables. Two men sat at a scorer’s table midway between the “pits,” two men pitched horseshoes, and the other players — one in a straw hat — watched the competition from folding chairs. Three wives chatted nearby.
I stopped by to say hello to one man working the grill, who told me that the tournament was conceived a month ago by a neighbor; today’s spectacular weather was a bonus. The players, food, and tournament bracket were still there three hours later (the wives had gone home). I wonder if I should have stayed for the award ceremony.
November 27: In addition to being the date of the First Annual Thanksgiving Horseshoe Tournament, yesterday was Small Business Saturday. Each year I help out at our neighborhood book store, aptly named One More Page, by greeting customers, offering assistance or gift-wrapping.
Today I recommended — and people bought — these wonderful books:
* The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brown
* World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
* Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokaczuk (Noble Laureate and one of Jeremiah’s favorite authors; this short quirky novel features a cranky narrator investigating why her neighbors keep turning up dead)
* Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, by Brené Brown
I hope those families have a festive holiday season! Meanwhile, I bought a few books of my own.
November 28: I sat in my coffee shop next to a 15-year old boy and 15-year old girl. I paid them no mind until I heard the boy confide to the girl,“Your parents terrify me.”
Eventually, the girl said goodbye; the boy lingered a bit. I almost asked why her parents terrified him, but thought I shouldn’t add to his impression of moms.
November 29: Again this year, my bookclub gathered at Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens to enjoy Christian Dior-inspired Christmas trees, an exhibit of Princess Grace’s Dior wardrobe, and a delightful café luncheon. We marveled over Russian Imperial porcelain, Fabergé eggs and jewel-encrusted chalices. But we saved time for the most important things: book talk over beautifully iced cookies in the members’ lounge and, well, a visit to the gift shop. I walked away with autumn-themed soap, dish towels, lotion and an apron — $15 poorer (!) and infinitely ready for next Thanksgiving.
November 30: Helicopters buzzed overhead between the Pentagon and CIA headquarters, so I raised the volume of my head phones as I walked. But the deafening sound actually came from the birds. Intrigued (and helpless), I turned off my audio book and listened to the racket. Hundreds of birds perched on a score of trees that stretched bare-limbed behind a dozen houses. For nearly half a mile, the birds practically shouted at each other — and me. A helicopter buzzed back. I’m happy to report that the birds were louder.
P.S. Walking home, I spied a hawk high in a barren tree, about two blocks from the avian cacophony. I wonder where she’d been an hour ago.
December 1: “I like your purse,” a fourth grader said to me as we walked through the hallway. “Is it my tassel?” I asked. Before the first girl could respond, a second girl chirped: “Ollie the Octopus!” A third girl looked baffled. “You know, like a cheese stick,” the second girl explained. That didn’t help.
The second girl — and now I — recalled when at lunch one day I told the story of Ollie. A student had asked me to help her open a mozzarella stick. I pulled apart the plastic and handed it back to her. Then I told about a family vacation in Florida when four-year old Nathaniel had brushed aside the mozzarella stick I offered him as a snack. My snack supply was perilously low and we were still an hour away from lunch, so I turned to magic.
Gripping the bottom of the cheese stick, I peeled eight strings of mozzarella until they flopped in a circle around the base. Nathaniel watched, fascinated; I was getting closer, I thought. Then I flipped the stick upside down, flailed the strings in a little leggy dance, and squeaked, “Hi, Nathaniel, I’m Ollie the Octopus. Eat me!” Nathaniel recoiled in horror. “Yum, yum,” I tried again, foolishly making the cheese wiggle a bit more. “No! No! No!” Nathaniel wailed, “I can’t eat OLLIE!”
And he didn’t. Announcing that he was no longer hungry, Nathaniel watched as I carefully wrapped Ollie in a napkin and laid him in my snack bag. Fortunately, Nathaniel did not watch as, a few minutes later, I popped him into my own mouth.
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