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Oranges and lemons

December 12, 2009

Yesterday got away from me. When I finally sat down at the computer with some time for writing, it was 11:00 at night. I thought about posting then, but, if truth be told, I’d had one too many cranberry daiquiris, or maybe rum balls, at my friend L’s Christmas party and I thought maybe I’d adhere to the don’t drink and type rule. L hosts this party every year. It’s for her female friends only (she is the mother of two boys who are exiled with their husband to parts of the house unseen). Her house is decorated to the nth degree. She cooks literally dozens of incredible appetizers, all labeled with cute, homemade holiday place cards so we know what we’re eating. She spends a lot of the evening whipping up batches of cranberry daiquiris, which are delicious, and which we drink in wine glasses with name tags tied to them with silk ribbons, so we don’t mislay them. When it’s time to go, we collect our cookies and she hands us a beautifully wrapped gift bag. Inside is a CD of Christmas music that she has made for us (it’s different every year) and usually one other small thing. This year it was snowman-shaped earrings she’d made out of glass beads and silver wire — the classy version of Christmas jewelry (if there is such a thing). L does this because she loves entertaining. She spends days preparing for this party because she enjoys it and she looks forward to it every year. The things she does for it and her obvious enjoyment of it make everyone in attendance feel so cared for, that there is absolutely no way not to have fun, even if you walk in feeling Scroogish.

And I was feeling Scroogish. I spent the afternoon working in the library at AJ’s school. It was a quieter than usual day because the kids were in an assembly to hear the Junior High School band. It was nice they got to hear it, because I don’t think there’s going to be a band next year. Art and music have been axed along with the gifted program. But in the lull in the library, My Favorite Librarian told me some more alarming news — the school libraries are on the chopping block as well. They may be shuttered to make room for the extra class space needed for the students from the closed school who will be moving in next year. Or they may be available for teachers to check out books, maybe for students, maybe not. Or there might be an aid available for circulation and checkout. But none of the teaching that goes on in the library — and there is a great deal of it — will continue. They will retain one librarian for the entire district instead of one at each school. There will be no new books and probably not much in the way of book repair — a bad combination. Worst of all, My Favorite Librarian, a widow who is three years away from retirement, may lose her job. If all that doesn’t give you that “Bah, Humbug!” feeling, I don’t know what would.

But I didn’t have much time to keep a dark cloud over my head. AJ and I walked home after school, making holes in the crusty snow with our boots. Then I took him to get his Christmas haircut, in advance of today’s neighborhood party and basketball team pictures tomorrow. Then we all trooped down to the Christmas tree lot to pick out our tree. In years past we have wandered like the three kings through the streets of our county looking for a good tree. We’ve tromped through muddy or frozen fields to cut our own. We’ve become well acquainted with just about every tree lot around. But last year, we discovered a nursery very close to our house has gorgeous trees for relatively inexpensive prices. And they will always give me all the branches I want for decorating. Plus the guy who helped us (the same one as last year), sounds, as Mr. Spy pointed out, just like Ozzie Guillén. — surely a good omen.

When I came home last night, the stars were shining bright. Orion was splayed out across the sky over the garage. And the Christmas tree, still lightless on account of the large quantity of snow frozen to the branches, looked beautiful in the front window. I took a deep breath of cold air, turned my key in the lock, and entered the sleeping house. AJ had put the presents he’d brought for us from school under the tree and Mrs. Stein was sleeping on them. I could hear the distant hum of the furnace. It is warm and safe and happy here and the rest of it I’ll have to leave outside the door until January.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2009 11:46 am

    This IS distressing news about your school library…time for parents to let the school board and community know that no school library means no carefully chosen materials with personal attention to excite ALL kids in the school about reading and no integration with teachers of project-based learning with 21st Century skills, no teaching ALL students about careful, skillful use of information, crucial (not optional) for student achievement. Suggest that your Favorite Librarian and some parents check out the American Association of School Librarians’ Crisis toolkits:

    School boards listen to parents!

  2. December 12, 2009 12:55 pm

    Thanks for posting, Sara. That link looks fantastically helpful. I’ll take a closer look at it this weekend and will talk to the librarian again this week to see what we can do. I’ve been trying to spread the word — none of the parents I’ve spoken with about it knew this is on the table, so I’m hoping we can find some support. But I worry that this is a tough time of year to get action.

  3. LSM permalink
    December 12, 2009 8:35 pm

    Is the financial picture worse in your district than in other parts of the state? I know we’re expecting a difficult budget year also, but nothing to the extent you’ve described. I hate hearing about the loss of learning opportunities for kids! In our state there are accreditation standards that require a certain level of staffing and spending for media centers. You might look into that for your state. The Department of Education should be able to provide the information.

  4. December 12, 2009 9:03 pm

    It is somewhat worse here, but a lot of the problem is caused by the state pulling out funding because of its own financial issues and then hijacking our stimulus money to pay things they were supposed to pay anyway. They’ve been chipping away at education funding for a long time. Illinois has no restrictions of any kind on class sizes, so we’re also probably looking at large class sizes next year. Illinois gradually got rid of all funding for gifted education and finally axed it altogether last year. I’m not sure about media specialists, but in general, the state seems to be pretty hands off on anything that isn’t covered by No Child Left Behind. But I will definitely look into it. One of the concerns I’ve heard voiced by the board is that if these cuts aren’t made that the state will take over the district and things will be even worse. But I’m wondering, how much worse could they be, really? No one seems to be able to provide any concrete information. In general, I think removing control from the community is not the best measure, but I’m not convinced that the Board of Education is making fully informed decisions here.

  5. lemming permalink
    December 13, 2009 3:46 pm

    I have a feeling that a lot of us, as individuals and as collectives, believed that the bad times could be outlasted. With o relief in sight, we’re taking draconian steps. Sure, the budget will be balanced, but at the expense of putting more people out of work, never mind the long term costs. What percentage of the population have we decided to just throw away? At what point is it enough?

  6. crankygirl permalink
    December 14, 2009 1:23 pm

    I hope you’re able to avoid the library closures. Also, the party sounds fabulous.

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