December 9: The air was nippy but the sun was glorious on the school blacktop, so I easily agreed to give my fifth-graders a few extra minutes of recess. I gazed at the basketball court (as I’ve been doing for 23+ years), watching ten boys play half-court basketball and three girls running “give & go” drills. Suddenly, an enterprising boy dribbled down court to the lightly populated half where the girls practiced. Nine boys followed him, screening, calling for the ball, taking up lots of room. The girls ignored them — and didn’t chase the boys off their side of the court. So I did, shooing them back across the half-court line.
Twenty seconds later, they all pounded back to the girls’ side of the court. I did the unthinkable (to me): I stepped onto the court. And, with my biggest outdoor teacher’s voice (that’s a BIG voice), I directed the boys back to their side of the court. Some of them moaned about numbers (“we’re 10, they’re 3”); some tried to elude me. I fluffed up my feathers, loomed large at the jump ball circle, and explained that they could use their time arguing with me or they could play half-court basketball. They chose to play and I stepped back to the sidelines.
The three girls continued their “give & go” drills. A fourth girl soon joined them, and another. Eventually, I watched eight girls play 4:4 on their half of the court.
I love (love) being old. I love that courage is easier and that I’ve found my voice. I also think it was important that I stood up for the girls when they didn’t stand up for themselves. (Nor would I at their age, or even as recently as 30 years ago.)
From years of watching my son Nate on the basketball court, I’ve learned this: hold your ground firmly even if the other team eventually runs into you; the foul is on them.
December 10: In the hands of Kevin and Jeremiah, a dozen boxes paraded down the attic steps to our living room. Meanwhile, I prepared the stage. The day had finally arrived to build, landscape and populate our Christmas Village. What started 18 years ago with a single hand-painted illuminated “Lego Factory” has become a fourteen-building village with scores of trees, twenty miniature animals and three dozen elves trimming tiny trees, training reindeer or fitting snowmen for winter-wear. We even have a top-hatted fellow atop a train winding a spiral path. (Astonished years ago by his manic battery energy, we dubbed him “Double Shot.”)
I promised to invite my bus-stop friends inside to see it. One boy nodded happily: you put it there, he said, pointing in the correct direction. How do you know? I asked. Because we climb through your garden every year to look at it through the window.
December 11: After a stunningly beautiful Service of Lessons and Carols, enriched by a professional opera singer, cellist and violinist, the choir invited the congregation to sing the recessional hymn “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” From the pews, we made a joyful noise. From the choir, the professional soprano offered soaring harmony. And from the string section, the cellist played accompaniment — and sang along with the rest of us.
December 12: I sat on the bleachers waiting for the JV boys basketball game to begin. A man appeared next to me; his coat collar, scarf and hat hid all but his eyes and nose. “Carol Ann!” he exclaimed, with what I took to be delighted surprise. (Oh dear; I couldn’t recognize him.) Slowly he peeled off his winter garments. I placed him at last: the proprietor of my favorite art & frame store. I quickly estimated twenty years of friendship and at least twenty pieces of art framed at his shop.
We are both too old to have children out there on the court — and too young to have grandchildren in high school. So we asked each other, what brings you here? In response, we each pointed to the coaches: Tom’s son is the JV boys head coach and my son Nate is the assistant. We laughed about the coincidence and promised to sit together again during Friday’s game.
December 13: At the grocery store, I crisply stopped my cart at the top of an aisle as another shopper crossed in front of me. At home, I crisply yielded right-of-way as Jeremiah passed by. At the coffee shop, I did the same thing. What is going on?
At school today, I watched my class crisply halt its line as another class rounded a corner into the hallway.
When I’m a substitute teacher, the students clearly aren’t the only ones learning.
December 14: I (finally) cleaned out my car. I (finally x100) took my car to be washed and vacuumed. Now my Prius is ready for new sand!
December 15: A band of Conference members, Council members and Senior Fellows assembled today to discuss administrative law (which is second only to urban sanitation and storm water as my favorite subject). The Conference draws law professors from all over the country, in addition to government and private attorneys. We meet twice a year, with “charter” members like me gradually draped in the mantle of Senior Fellow. (I’m now better at long division than administrative law.)
Brisk debate ensued over a Conference recommendation, with speakers recognized in turn by the Chair. Authorized to speak, a law professor introduced herself. Our (new) Chair expressed surprised delight: “Renee! I haven’t seen you since the 1990s!” Renee replied, “We all look different now.”
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