The tales they tell - FamilyEducation

The tales they tell

December 18,2009
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

I have a post I've been wanting to put up for a couple of weeks now, all about our Christmas ornaments--the ones that are extra special, for various extra-special reasons (I know you have ornaments like these at your own house), but I was going to include lots of photos, and photos have been a bit buggy lately over here, so I haven't written the post. But oh, the stories my ornaments could tell. I remember when I was in high school and my sister and I decorated the Christmas tree at our house, we would always hide the homemade ornaments at the back of the tree, embarrassed, I guess, by the very things that made them special--paint applied too liberally on the clothespin nutcracker, uneven glitter application on any number of ornaments, a reindeer with one antler. Now that I'm all grown up, and with a tree and children of my own, those crafty school- or home-made ornaments are the most precious ones, and I place them front and center every year (I caught L. once trying to hide a reindeer made from his hand print). Those are the ornaments with the stories behind them, the history only we know about. They are the ones that make me smile the most, when I gaze at our tree, those little time capsules sprouting here and there from between branches, steadfastly hanging on through the years, even if the little hands that once made them have long moved on to bigger things. *********** This past week I spent most of my time a) shopping and b) volunteering at both of the children's schools. Earlier in the week I helped out with art for L.'s class. The project this week was to complete a small hanging holiday placard the kids had started last week. Their mission: to create a short message for the front of the placard using stamps and ink. “You can create any message you like,” the teacher instructed the kids. “Only let’s keep it in the spirit of the holidays.” I was in the middle of helping several kids assemble all the stamps they needed for words like “JOY” and "PEACE" when I looked over and saw L.’s placard. There, in the middle of a festive backdrop of red and green tissue paper he had stamped the word WAR in large black letters. Despite a vow made long ago to myself that I would not overly interfere in my children's creative forms of expression, nor would I hover round my child when I volunteered in their classrooms, or correct them in front of their peers, or embarrass them by unwanted displays of affection in front of classmates, I couldn't let that one go. When the kids around him were busying themselves with fighting over the letters “C” and “I” I leaned close to L. and whispered in his ear, "You can’t write ‘WAR’ on your holiday sign!" "Why?" he asked back. "You just CAN'T," I hissed back. "It's just not right." "Well it's on there now," he said, moving back to the book he was reading. I leaned in very, very, very close and said, in that voice I reserve for times when immediate action is necessary, make no mistake about it, "Fix it. Right. Now." But then I was pulled away by several kids who were arguing over the letter "N" for Noel. When I looked back at L. I saw that he had very meticulously, and with another black marker, written the word "CLONE" above the word "WAR" and was working on adding an "S" to the end of the offending word. And that is the story of how we came to have a holiday placard with the words CLONE WARS on it--perhaps the only one of its kind, I'm very certain.