Delights: December 2 to December 8

December 2: Yesterday in STEAM (science + technology + engineering + arts + math), the teacher announced that my fourth grade class would write code for a robot. (I gaped in wonder.) To explain the specificity required of computer coding, she pretended to be a robot (“beep boop,” she said, with robot arms gliding up and down) and asked the students to program her to open the classroom door.

As the students offered instructions, the teacher turned circles, waved her arms and explained that a robot doesn’t understand “door” or “small” or “knob” or “again.” Eventually the students built on each other’s work and succeeded: stand up and stay standing; turn 90 degrees to the left; turn 90 degrees to the left; walk forward five feet; and so on.

Everyone gave up when she reached the doorknob; even I didn’t know how to tell her to grab it. The teacher then instructed the fourth graders to grab their computers and program a miniature robot named Edison to navigate a maze. Amazed, indeed.

December 3: At my coffee shop, I sat next to a twelve year old girl working with her dad on math homework. Having spent the last two days teaching long division, I inhaled deeply and refrained (mightily) from jumping in.

When I peeked again a few minutes later, I spied complex algebraic equations, realized that the man might be a tutor, and remembered that I know absolutely nothing about algebra. My guardian angel had saved me from profound embarrassment.

I found this charming Queen Anne house on a recent walk.

December 4: Over dinner, Kevin admired (again!) our Christmas tree shimmering in a galaxy of tiny lights and sparkling ornaments. “What memories came to you while you worked?” he asked.

Such a kind question! Maybe Pear Man’s plump smile (and Bethany Beach provenance) despite losing an arm years ago in a tree crash. Maybe Froggy in the Bubble Bath, still smiling despite similar misadventure. Maybe the tattered cowrie-shell-and-straw ornament from our Hawaii honeymoon that I once hung too close to our dog’s nose.

Or maybe a painted ornament from Tuscany (2016) and an engraved brass one from New Jersey (1976), both connecting me to my friend Kathy. Maybe tiny china William, a bear tucking his paws into overall pockets, that I once bought for my friend Joan’s baby boy but kept for myself — along with 25 years of warm thoughts toward the entire family each Christmas. And definitely the tandem bicycle ornament, which I gave Kevin when I agreed to do a five-day tandem ride with him. (The ornament and, happily, our marriage survived; the tandem is long gone.)

Jeremiah cued up the Christmas music. The singing of our Christmas tree filled my ears too.

Bonus: I’d love to hear a memory associated with one of your Christmas ornaments.

December 5: Tonight, from a highway bridge, I saw a brilliantly lit triangle of land wedged between the river and a golf course. Shipping containers, planted nose to tail, created a compact metal maze. Construction equipment offered occasional vertical interest and a few helmeted workers navigated the congested space. As I whizzed by, I took one last glance at this strange metal city and saw, in a corner of its “plaza,” a small illuminated Christmas tree.

December 6:  I navigated my grocery cart around the grapes and saw a small boy nestled in the large basket of his mother’s cart. Twenty minutes later, I saw them again. The mom was hoisting him out of the basket and placing him into the child seat up front. She smiled at me: “He wanted me to put the groceries on top of him, but that eventually stopped being fun.” I smiled back. And somehow a memory stirred of Nate or Jeremiah wanting to do the same thing (amid cereal boxes and tortilla chips) — with exactly the same outcome.

December 7: Gloom (and twinkle lights over the fireplace) suggested a pot of tea, a lap blanket and a book. But I went exploring.

I landed in Salisbury, Maryland, where the nice lady at the visitor’s center handed me so many pamphlets that, pitying me, she also gave me a reusable sack to corral them.

Off I went. Wandering the two-block 19th century Main Street, I consulted my architecture guide and found cornices, pilasters and Art Deco eagles. I paused in front of a Romanesque church, where two loud chimes startled me (“Hel-lo” and “Come-In,” the bells said.) Shortly after, I startled four college kids when I accidentally paused in front of their eye-level restaurant window table. (They smiled “hello,” but not “come in.”) Finally I treated myself to a warm, delicately sweetened pastry-like Belgian waffle fresh off the grill. (“My grandmother’s from Liège,” the proprietor explained.) 

I’m glad it wasn’t a beach day!

December 8: Yesterday’s waffle maker from Salisbury said her grandfather met her grandmother during World War II; she was in the new family business of margarine-making and he was a U.S. Army cook in the business of buying it. Rationing over and transplanted to America, the grandmother never ate margarine again.

This reminds me of the time we took my mother to a fancy Italian restaurant and pointed to a $16 polenta entree on the menu. My mother recoiled in horror: she had eaten polenta every night during the Depression, albeit prepared by her mother a dozen different ways. “Polenta! Polenta! Polenta!” she exclaimed. And then she laughed to think that poor-people food was now pricy exotica. 

Readers, to receive notifications by email each time I make a post, just scroll all the way down this page (next to the “word cloud”), look to the left and click on the black button that says “Join Me!” And if you think a friend might enjoy these, please share the Delight!

If you’d like to browse my past delights, please consult the “word cloud” featured at the very bottom of this post. Find a theme or two that interests you and sift through the sands. Or learn a bit more about my Blog by visiting my Welcome page. You’ll also see links to four essays that were published in print magazines. I’m glad you’re here!

12 thoughts on “Delights: December 2 to December 8

  1. So glad you have added in the ‘A’ and not leaving it as STEM – a big bug bear of mine is the lack of serious attention paid to arts education Ah well…to jolly things and Christmas tree decorations. So many of mine like yours have stories to tell, but my favourite is my little French drummer boy, who always sits in the centre of the tree so all can see him. He was bought in Paris, the year my second niece (who now lives in Chevy Chase) was born and the year we spent Christmas in Paris when I was 11. He appears every Christmas in the blog and will do of course this year again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love this story, Barbara. You were 11 when you spent Christmas in Paris, giving you forever-memories of your new niece and a beautiful city! I’m eager to read about your French drummer boy. (And I hope you visit your niece — and me — sometime!)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Our Christmas tree (artificial and – I regret to say – still lurking in a box at the back of the wardrobe) is also decked out with ornamental memory joggers. Most recently, late in 2019, we bought a small, copper-effect kiwi bird at the end of a magical, seven-weeks long trip to New Zealand. Shortly afterwards Covid came storming into our lives, and everything changed, so the kiwi decoration now serves as a reminder both of a wonderful trip and – more poignantly – of a lost world.

    And I’m with Thistles and Kiwis in noting with approval that you have STEAM and not STEM, the latter also being in vogue here. I look back with dismay at youngsters I knew in my youth, folk who were scientifically adept but artistically illiterate; any initiative that seeks to address this issue it surely to be welcomed. Having said that, back in the day we artistic types maybe needed a bit more encouragement in scientific stuff. (I was tempted to add here that I would have welcomed the coding workshop described in your post, but then I remembered that back when I was in formal education computers existed only on Star Trek! My word, how the world has changed.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Mr. P. The kiwi bird sounds both beautiful and poignant. And I can only gape in wonder at a seven-week NZ holiday…. I’m with you and Thistles & Kiwis about the importance of the Arts, both alone and in connection with the sciences. The elementary school students happily have weekly art classes (= Alma Thomas!); I’m eager to see how the arts are integrated into Engineering, etc. in STEAM.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guessed Alma Thomas might be part of your curriculum! Those young people are privileged to be exposed to her work, and to your enthusiasm for it, at such a tender age.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you for your kind words about Alma Thomas and my teaching. Actually (amazingly? or not!) Alma Thomas was part of the elementary school’s regular curriculum. Not my influence at all!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Margarine was a dirty word in our house. My father used to call it “axle grease.” I once wrote a short story called “Raised on Margarine,” where a young working-class girl goes to a friend’s house and is introduced to food she’s never had. As for special ornaments…I collect Santas, and they are tucked here, there, and everywhere on the tree. Makes me smile to see them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Axle grease! That’s so apt. While we are grateful for a non-dairy spread like that (I keep some around to grease my banana bread pan), I do indeed love my butter. Your short story touches a powerful theme through a very simple (yet complex) object.

      And I love the Santa collection. I can imagine how they make you smile. Please show us some!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Stay tuned for Monday’s post, which will feature some of my Santas.

        Like

  4. Cold weather and twinkle lights over the fireplace often suggest a pot of tea, a blanket and a book to me as well. And they almost always win! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They did win the day before! And maybe tomorrow as well: I am looking forward to that perfect combination. I hope you find your way there too!

      Like

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