First thing I noticed was that the kids were wearing turkey hats they had crafted out of construction paper. Each hat had multiple paper feathers decorated with crayons and glued onto a head band. These were eerily similar to Native American headdresses, but no matter. Trying not to offend any affinity group, the teachers had opted for a turkey motif. No pilgrims kitsch either.
I was invited to Rebecca’s class for the Thanksgiving feast. I was supposed to volunteer, however there wasn’t much to do. I tied a few boys’ shoelaces, broke up a fight over a puzzle, went out to recess with them and took photos. All the food was arranged on a buffet table: popcorn, fruit ambrosia, pretzels, little cupcakes with orange and yellow frosting, red peppers cut in strips, and cranberry juice.
When we returned to the classroom, the teacher asked me to read a book to the circle of children. It was called "Pip and Squeak", which was a pretty uninspired book, so I added my own clever commentary as I read on.
When the families arrived, moms and grandmothers mostly, only one dad, the teacher had the children sing Farmer in the Dell, Over the River and Through the Woods, and another one I didn’t recognize at all.
The children were told to sit down next to the placemats they made with strict instructions not to eat before everyone had been served. I like that the teacher talked about manners.
The big question was asked by the teacher: What are you grateful for? With answers that were all similar, like the world, their moms, and my little grand girl, however, piped up by announcing, “I’m grateful for my Grandma.” When Rebecca gets nervous, she has a tendency to speak too loudly, so everyone heard her proclaim her devotion. Nice.
Feeling bad for the dad who made the unappreciated sweet fruit salad, I tried to make myself useful by spooning the ambrosia onto kids’ plates, “See little marshmallows?” Not many takers. The kids ate their food, sang one more song and it was over.
Rebecca came over to give me a quick kiss goodbye, so excited because she was going to the after school program for a few hours. “It’s movie day!, ” she told me. I asked her to stand still and put on her turkey hat so I could take a picture.
Her response was, “No Grandma, I have to hurry. I gotta go, my friends are waiting.”
By the time I snapped the picture I just got the back of her, running with her turkey hat in her hand, jacket slung over her shoulder, and her backpack bouncing. I was kind of stunned. So soon?
As I drove home, I thought of the old Malvina Reynolds’ song, “Turn around.” The lyrics go something like, “Turn around and she’s two, turn around and she’s four, turn around and she’s a young girl going out of the door.”
That night as I told my daughter what happened, she said, “And that’s the difference between a 5 year old and a 6 year old.” Right on schedule, but God, I'm just not ready yet.