Seven may be the age of reason according to the Catholic Church but the 26 of them clamoring around me this past week, shrieking “Miss Vicki! Miss Vicki!” at the top of their piping little lungs seemed beyond reason, felt no guilt and had no sense of moral responsibility as far as I could tell. God, am I getting old.
At some point long ago (when I was unconscious?) I agreed to come back from North Carolina one week after the moving van left to teach art camp in St. Petersburg. What was I thinking? Wool felting to 7 and 8 year olds in 104 degrees in Florida in August? Obviously, I wasn’t even paying attention because I thought I was teaching 10-12 year old camp.
With 26 children, there were the usual suspects: the one sad south side boy with the worst case of ADHD I’ve EVER seen, the porky blond girl who couldn’t keep her fingers out of everyone else’s work and kept asking if it’s lunch time yet while continuously eating the “snack” her mother had packed (usually something sludgy, in a paper tube) and the bright-eyed Bridgett who alternated between divisive in-groups of three and falling on the floor, precisely at 2:37 pm, wailing that everybody hates her, which was actually close to accurate but was still highly disruptive.
On Tuesday I was busy demonstrating how to gently pull the wool into wispy bits to lay down for felt. Getting them all to quiet down and gather round and pay attention was, in my book, a major accomplishment. My elbow was being continuously bumped and buffeted by Miss Pudgy but I used great restraint and said nothing until I heard her mumble, “And you call yourself a teacher??” I looked at her as she stared at me with an expression of complete innocence, a “who, me?” expression and while I was tempted to ask, “What’s that? You think I’m an excellent teacher?” I genuinely laughed and continued on. By Thursday I was proclaiming, “Justin! This is NOT samurai warrior camp! If I see you running around with those scissors snapping in the air one more time I’m going to glue your butt to this chair!” and ” The next one of you that ‘accidentally’ locks yourself in the supply closet STAYS in the supply closet until tomorrow at 3!” I’m quite certain I would be fired in week two if I were in a regular classroom situation and while I was earning at the rate of 48,000/year I have no idea how young teachers earning half that survive a single month of teaching. No idea.
I had watercolor pencils floating in my felting soap, yogurt in the merino wool and newspaper turned to paper mache on the floor, but in the end it was all good. There were several teenager assistants to help referee, do bathroom runs and take them away for a half-hour lunch. My ADHD child was a real sweetheart and tried so hard to get it together, I was able to sell Bridgitt on the virtues of positive attention as opposed to negative and my plump little friend ended the week saying, “I know. I know. ‘Patience is a virtue’ but Miss Vicki! Miss Vicki!…” With the help of my good neighbor, Other Vicki, I finished sewing 26 pieces of handmade felt to homemade pillows and the week ended on a high note with everyone taking home a completed project.
Despite the complaining, I love teaching and being around children. The energy and creativity and burgeoning sense of humor of a seven year old is delightful. And, for just a week, I do it very well and the kids have a great time. Win-win.
(this note ends with “teaching me things about art that I didn’t know”) I like that.
WE LIVE IN A TREE HOUSE AND THERE ARE TOO MANY TOMATOES
I flew home this morning from St. Petersburg and it’s a little bit bittersweet because I really love my good friends there, I love our little house with the big porch and January through March, it’s quite the pleasant respite from winter’s wrath. Otherwise? This mountain home is all we had hoped for and more. It’s incredibly beautiful, non-stop. The weather, the trees, the birds, deer, snakes and our resident black bear with three cubs. The local organic food, the corn maze, the self-serve produce stand, the CSA. The four-gate passenger friendly airport, the EarthFare store. Hey! This morning, after Rich picked me up from the airport we stopped for some groceries and stood in line next to Andie MacDowell! She’s a lovely woman (I could tell by the groceries in her cart- it seemed important not to stare at her so I looked at her groceries) who, in real life at the grocery store looks exactly the way she does in her movies. Around here she goes by Rose Qualley.
Rich had been hoping for a bear sighting and I kept saying no, no, no. We do not want her and her three wee ones here, knocking down bird feeders and trampling the melon patch. The night after I left for Florida Rich called to say he was over that. He reported that Sophie was in her usual window seat and he was watching TV when all of a sudden Sophie BLEW across the room, never touching the ground, with her tail the size of the Hindenburg. She landed on Rich’s chest with all four paws of claws fully extended, bounced off the lovely cherry headboard and flew into the office with McCloud close on her heels. A full four minutes later Rich heard the crashing and banging down on the drive. We had several large Waste Pro containers, 99.5 percent full of end-stage construction trash and .5 percent food waste. The .5 warranted an hour and 15 minute rummage that left trash spread all over the giant drive apron and down the road into the woods. I guess it took him a couple hours to clean up.
Late this afternoon I went down to the garden and picked tomatoes, again. It’s been alternately dry and wet and this garden was planted so early in the season that most things have bolted and are near done. The Romas are everywhere, on the ground, on the plants, strewn about the yard by wildlife. The heirloom tomatoes are just coming in; I picked some Mr. Stripey and Black Cherokee today. The Black Cherokee have wonderful belly buttons and both have magnificent summer flavors of sweet and acid. Tomorrow I will can tomato sauce one last time with the Romas and then, 40 quarts thus far, call it good for the year. I’ll use the heirlooms that we don’t eat for canned tomatoes. I’m ready to tear down the summer garden and get a clean venue for fall herbs and greens, some carrots, peas and cooler weather crops. What should I do with nearly 200 jalapenos?
I am reminded of my weekly calls with my father when I was 40 and he was 64, two years before he died. I was a single mother and full-time psychotherapist and I would respond, “I’m fine, Dad- just way too much to do” and he would always answer, “Lucky you.” How right he was. I’m a fortunate woman to have this life with way too much to do.
It’s Sunday and finally a day of relative rest (aside from those tomatoes).We’re off to the WNC Arboretum today. I joined when I first arrived two months ago but Rich hasn’t been yet. The annual quilt show, this year themed “Stars Over the Mountains” is there and ends today; one of my neighbors here is a world-class quilter and I want to see her work.
(Sophie,in her felted bed, on bear patrol)