Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Lights and Singing Shepherds

It appears that it is the 24th of December, unless the calendars all are lieing, but that is highly unlikely. It's cold. While there is no snow due to an appalling lack of precipitation, the cold persists. This time of year does have its perks though. Driving down almost any road, a person is bound to come across at least one home strung with lights. It's things like that that pull joy through me. Something as simple as lights in a dark night can pull me from whatever hole I've been in.

It's hard to write about Christmas, how strongly it lives within us even out of the season, so I'm just going to tell you a story instead. As a warning it isn't particularly funny or long, it's just a small anecdote.

My sister and I played dolls often. We loved making up stories. One year we decided to do a Christmas pageant with our dolls. We were not deterred by lack of an audience. My sister's favorite dolls were Mary and Joseph. My dolls were the innkeeper and his wife. It went fairly predictably, until we brought out the shepherds. Here, we had taken a few creative liberties. It began with a song.

"We are the hillbilly shepherds and we have two dozen sheep."
"And one goat!"
"And we feed the goat laundreeeee."

After the shepherds finished singing, their mother called them in for dinner, which was inevitably shepherd's pie.

The rest was perfectly normal until the two wise men came. The third one was sick and couldn't make it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Math and Me: The Lack of Equality

I do not do numbers. We just do not work. I can pick up on ideas fairly quickly in any subject and I can remember most facts, unless those facts are numbers, but none the less, in high school, I still made better math grades than many of my classmates. I get the ideas, not the numbers.

It was my sophomore year, and I was in geometry. One day we had a sub that gave us the option of playing a game or doing the worksheet. If you know students of any age, our choice won't be remotely surprising. We played the game. In the game, a girl went up to one side of the white board and a boy went to the other. The sub read a problem, and whoever finished the problem correctly earned a point for their team. It was pretty straight forward; then I went up there.

217 x 16

I stood there, marker poised to make a mark as my opponent scribbled away. I could hear some boys whispering behind me.

"She's doing it in her head. There's a white board in her head, man."

The boys' team got the point, and I slid back in my seat without making a mark to show any work, wondering if that's really what they thought. What really happened? I stood there for about four minutes trying to remember what six times seven is.

Multiplication has never been my friend. We started timed multiplication tests in third grade. 50 problems  in 15 minutes, till we started 100 problems in so much time. I never finished. I would stress out and there would be nothing there. It got so bad that I'd try to go to the nurse at just the right time, so I could avoid it. It did make me feel bad though. Somehow, I never missed a test, except on days I was absent. When my Algebra 1 teacher had us do one for "fun" at the beginning of my freshman year, I ended up crying when I hugged my mom after school. I hadn't even finished halfway when everyone else was finished and talking loudly behind me. I think multiplication has scarred me in some irreversible way.

In fourth grade we would split into pairs and quiz each other with multiplication problems. Two one digit numbers. They were on flash cards. Once one person showed the other a card, she had to answer in fifteen seconds. I basically failed at that.

Back even farther, to when we started subtraction. I'd actually been getting along with numbers. Each had its own personality and gender. They behaved in set ways when they were with each other. Then subtraction came along and my sweet little world shattered. I started to dislike math.

Looking through award certificates and teachers notes that my mother had kept from my elementary years, I found a sweet little note from my kindergarten teacher to my mother, explaining that I had accomplished the task of counting to 100, however, I had left out the number fifteen and that I often did, when I counted. I remember that when I read that, as a little one, I was fairly put out. Who needs fifteen? It's not important! The irony of this? My favorite number has been fifteen for the last few years.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Letter to Spiders (#3)

Dear Spiders,

I had thought that we were living quite peacefully. I hadn't seen any of you in maybe a month, except for the one that spun a web between my bedstand and a wall, but that one was asking to be squished. Saturday I opened my closet to pull out a top, and one of you was just sitting there on a white sweater. It was kind of obvious, considering he wasn't white. Do you have to do that? When was the last time any of you were in my closet? A year and a half? I thought we'd worked out the boundaries when it came to the closet. There aren't even any bugs to eat in there!

I thank the brown recluses for staying out of this situation. As for the one that was on my sweater, look out little buddy, because you were lucky I didn't see where you landed. Next time, you'll be flattened with a flip-flop. Got it?


The Saga of the Christmas Tree (Part 1)

When I was young, my mother took me with her to buy a new Christmas tree. What happened to the last one; your guess is as good as mine. Maybe mice got in it, maybe spiders, maybe the lights were dead, or maybe it just wouldn’t reassemble properly anymore. Whatever the reason was, we needed a new one. My sister and father did not accompany us to Wal-Mart that day.

I wandered along beside the cart as we rolled into the Christmas section. There at the beginning of a shelf was a display tree. It was dark green with lights scattered through it. My little feet stalled in their path, until my mother dragged me along into the tree aisle. There she compared sizes, prices, and with lights already strung in or not, and I did my best not to be bored out of my young mind. Finally, my mother pulled a large box off of the shelf. It didn’t fit entirely in the cart, but enough of it did that it wasn’t impractical. Mom was fairly happy with it as it was on sale. The box had been opened and resealed.

“It was probably a display tree,” she commented to me as we meandered our way towards the checkout. She didn’t offer any explanation as to why it wasn’t anymore.

Days, maybe weeks later, my older sister and I sat before the tree with our Barbies in pre-Christmas joy. Well, at least until I wacked the back of my head on a tree branch. In pain, I hurried to my mother for comfort. She was at her computer as always.

“Do you remember when we got that tree?”

I nodded diligently.

“Well, it was on sale, and it used to be a display tree, but they had to take it down because it was eating children, so you need to be more careful around it, okay?”

I nodded again.

Not long after, she wrote of this very incident, concluding it with “I love kids. (They taste wonderful!)”.