Do You Like School?

Do you like school?

We have no idea where our toddler Noel got this phrase. Perhaps from Teletubbies when we weren’t looking, given that much else of what he expresses is related to that show. Indeed, he spends most of his spare time – and let’s face it, toddlers have a LOT of spare time – walking round with a miniature ball that he attaches to his miniature Nunu, hoping that the toy vacuum cleaner will mysteriously suck it up as per any number of delightful Tubbies episodes. It’s a sweet sight, believe me.

Anyway, one of his first full phrases is this: “Campbell, do you like school?” (Pronounced, approximately, “Caboo, dooou like cool?” Campbell, nine years his elder and newly at Middle School, can be guaranteed in his reply: “No, I don’t! Stop asking!” I sympathize with the older kid: most mornings he’s on the school bus at 7:15am, when it’s still dark, he comes home almost eight hours later laden with homework, a lot of his best friends are back at the Elementary School, and as such, he’s all too aware that he’s been forcibly promoted out of a key stage of childhood before he thought he was ready.

Recent mornings have not been “most mornings,” though. After the ’06-07 “winter” that failed to produce any serious winter weather until Valentine’s Day (a blessing for our family, in the midst of building a house, but a disaster for the skiers and snowboarders amongst us and a worrying sign of ongoing global warming), we are getting assaulted left, right and center this year. We had one snow day the first week of December, a late morning the day after, another day off this past Monday when the entire region was coated with a truly treacherous layer of ice – and we all stayed home yesterday to watch the first full storm of the season drop almost a foot of snow on the area. All this and winter doesn’t even start for a week!

Winter has come early this year

Yesterday seemed like the perfect morning to put a long-hatched plan into action, and as the first flakes fell, I got Campbell dressed, into his snowboarding clothes, off in the car and… no, not to the ski mountains, but further down the hill to a crop of (our) land laden with balsam fir trees. Not the typical Christmas tree kind with those sharp needles that drop all over your floor for several weeks, but a softer, kinder Christmas tree. We took an axe and a saw, and when we spotted our ideal tree – with twin trunks that guaranteed a full crop of needles – we got on our hands and our knees and, to our dual surprise, brought the tree down in under fifteen minutes. Just as well: by then the snow was falling in droves and we still had to trudge our way up the hill and through the woods, Campbell valiantly carrying the main trunk over his shoulder, me bringing up the rear trying to gather the overflowing branches in one hand, the saw and axe in the other. As the steep ground got a coating of the fluffy stuff, we each fell several times, but we laughed about it and eventually got the tree out of the woods and back onto the road – albeit much further down the hill than where we’d parked the car.

It was the kind of adventure that usually, in my not-very-outdoor hands, goes wrong, and I still figured we’d either fail to get the tree on top of my car, or else the car – a rear-wheel drive, not a four-wheel – would then fail to get up the hill, which by now had three inches of snow all over it. But we succeeded on both fronts and, once we soared off the very lowest branches, the tree slotted right into its container, its tip just touching – but not bending – our living room ceiling. Without a tape measure, Campbell and I had selected a perfect nine-footer. We’d also saved ourselves at least fifty dollars. And we had a story to celebrate for the day, as I hunkered down to writing and Campbell to his third day off school out of the last nine. At this rate, given that the kids have to make up these days at the end of the school year, we’d better hesitate in planning any summer holiday. In the meantime, we’re looking forward to decorating the tree this weekend. Our very own tree. Happy holidays.

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October 2021