Good Saint Nicholas Visited

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My boys put out their shoes last night in the hopes that St. Nicholas would visit on his feast day of December 6. In the morning we woke to this: shoes full of simple treasures. They each received a small pot of honey, rock candy lollies in Christmas colors, a chocolate in the shape of a Swiss army knife, and a small, bejeweled magnifying glass.

I admit it’s a challenge to continue to put in the effort involved in celebrating festivals at home. Life just seems to get busier and busier, and we’re always adapting. I find it’s also difficult to keep the festivals alive for younger children when their older siblings age out of them. However, Lucas obligingly threw his Converse sneakers down by the door at 10 p.m. last night, after some prodding on my part. Asher was all in at the first mention of St. Nicholas visiting.

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How do you jolly your olders along to keep the magic alive for your youngers? I’d love to hear ideas! I’m grateful that my older son is still a pretty good sport, most of the time.

Discovering goodies at 0-dark-thirty is always a thrill, is it not?

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The good saint visited the Waldorf school today, too, with his helper Rupert. Here is a photo of him in the Kindergarten (Thank you, Michelle!). Our kids are so blessed. Our beautiful school happily receives St. Nicholas and Rupert every year. They bring small treats to all the students in every grade in the school. Asher reports that he brought an orange and tiny chocolates to everyone in fourth grade. Nicholas prepares the way for the Sun child, who’s coming soon in the deepest part of winter.

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Kind old man Saint Nicholas, dear,
Come into our house this year.
Here’s some straw and here’s some hay
For your little donkey gray.

Pray put something into my shoe;
I’ve been good the whole year through.
Kind old man Saint Nicholas dear,
Come into our house this year.

I’ve written about this simple festival for many years now. Feel free to search in the Archives window at the right for “Nicholas” and you’ll find the posts. Moreover, the St. Nicholas Center online has a gazillion pages of stories and info about this interesting patron saint of children, sailors, scholars, orphans, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, and victims of judicial mistakes. He’s a busy guy.

Advent & Saint Nichoals Festival E-Book

The Advent and Saint Nicholas Festival E-Book that I wrote with my dear Eileen is available here, at Little Acorn Learning. It contains loads of fun ideas.

I left for work today at 7:30. It’s been a long, tiring day of editing a high-speed train document, commuting, helping Asher with homework, managing a difficult but productive viola practice session, searching for a missing spelling list, asthma testing and meds, stories, emails, and now this little missive. I feel often like I’ve got so many juggling balls in the air right now, and keep adding more. But with each new one another ball drops. I’ve realized I need to refocus a bit more on providing supports for Asher. Although he’s quite good at doing a lot of stuff on his own, he needs more practice with spelling words and math, more practice with viola (he feeling really lost and left behind in strings class), and more assistance making sure his homework gets done. I’ve put reminders in my phone to help me help him. And no matter how tired I am in the evening, we need to attend to these things to establish a good rhythm. And all of this is part of a bigger effort to deal with Asher’s anxiety. The more prepared he is, the less he’ll feel anxiousI hope.

Motherhood. It ain’t for the faint of heart.

 

Thankful!

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Thanksgiving
Outside the barn the wind is strong,
Bringing cold November rain;
Within these walls the hay is sweet,
Bins are filled with yellow grain.
The cows are quiet in their stalls,
The newest calf is sound asleep;
And close together in their pen
Rest the gently breathing sheep.
The mare’s big colt is by her side
To share with her the the golden hay—
I’m truly thankful, Lord, that these
Are fed and sheltered on this day.

—Judy Van der Veer

First Thanksgiving of All
Peace and Mercy and Jonathan,
And Patience (very small),
Stood by the table giving thanks
The first Thanksgiving of all.
There was very little for them to eat,
Nothing special and nothing sweet;
Only bread and a little broth,
And a bit of fruit (and no tablecloth);
But Peace and Mercy and Jonathan,
And Patience, in a row,
Stood up and asked a blessing on
Thanksgiving long ago.
Thankful they were their ship had come
Safely across the sea;
Thankful they were for hearth and home,
And kin and company;
They were glad of broth to go with their bread,
Glad their apples were round and red,
Glad of mayflowers they would bring
Out of the woods again next spring.
Peace and Mercy and Jonathan,
And Patience (very small),
Stood up gratefully giving thanks,
The first Thanksgiving of all.

—Nancy Bird Turner

Looking forward to running with Jami tomorrow!There’s so much to be thankful for! My friends and family, our charming and clever boys, our silly delightful dogs. My brave and beautiful husband. Our safe home, and our abundant opportunities to grow and learn and thrive. Challenges that keep us sharp and urge us on to become our better selves. Waldorf school. Business partners extraordinaire. The boundless generosity of our family and community. Forgiveness. Courage. Love. Constancy. Hope. Life is rich and full of miracles both large and small. About to start!

My Thanksgiving Day started with a 10K run with Jami, in the 22nd annual Run to Feed the Hungry. 28,644 people ran to raise money for the Sacrament Food Bank and Family Services, which helps those members of our community who are food insecure. It wasn’t easy because I haven’t been training much, but we did it and we finished strong. It was definitely fun! Start Run to Feed the Hungry!  upload And what a glorious day! After Jami and I parted ways, I wandered through California State University Sacramento a bit, taking pictures and looking for my car. (I forgot to pay attention to where I parked it.) No matter. It meant I got see see these gorgeous gingko trees!

uploadLater on, we had a lovely meal with my family. Dad does a wicked-good turkey! Everyone was in high spirits!Happy Thanksgiving!Delicious

I made a gratined chard recipe for the first time, which I’m definitely making again.

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We rounded out our visit with a game of SpaceTeam, and then binged on Avatar the Last Airbender episodes. We’re into season 3 again, so things are really heating up for Aang and the gang. 😉

On Saturday we get to visit with Ian’s family, where I expect excitement will be high.

And now, it’s off to deadline land for me. Although the boys have a whole week off, I’m working hard on a big project.

XO

2015 Michaelmas

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It’s almost too late to write about Michaelmas, since it was a month ago. Honestly, I’m being pulled in so many directions these days, sometimes it’s all I can do to keep my feet underneath me and pointed forward.

This Michaelmas season brought with it many challenges and opportunities to exercise our courage and grow into our new selves. We got to go deep; we got to fall apart and pick ourselves up again. We got to learn more about our own fears, strengths, compassion, intuition, and capacity for love and forgiveness. We got to shed our old dragon skins and reemerge, shining and tender, into life. And the world keeps on turning …

IMG_8014 These photos are from our sons’ school Michaelmas festival, which I delight in writing about year after year.IMG_8004

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This year, Asher’s class played the role of the happy villagers of the land, who joyfully dance until the terrifying dragon arrives, disrupting their festivities and scattering them in fear.

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The dragon was fearsome and surprisingly quirky—this year’s dragon had a baby dragon with it! IMG_8118

As you maybe can see, it was a mighty hot day. My little Asher and his third-grade classmates danced beautifully, and their lovely and talented class teacher danced with them.

IMG_8034IMG_8093 With courage, pure hearts, strength in community, and Michael’s aid, the dragon was subdued. And the people rejoiced. IMG_8099 Lucas’s teacher was the town crier. She gave a dramatic performance and brought her considerable gravitas to the role. IMG_8110 IMG_8107 IMG_8124 The sixth graders create and man the dragon each year. It is a massive undertaking. The whole school turns out for this festival. It’s unifying and inspiring every time.IMG_8129 IMG_8143

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The eighth grade class is pretty busy this year with their schoolwork. They had a minor roll in the festival, which was just fine with them.

And with this we ushered in autumn, with all its beauty and contradiction. We faced our fears with renewed vigor and confidence, and we are stronger for it.

First Day of School

First day of 8th and 3rd grades

It’s the first day of school! This morning we cast aside our lazy summer routine and got up early to get to class at 8:10 a.m. This is my handsome eighth-grader and my charming-but-not-the-least-bit-enthusiastic third-grader. They have had 94 days off for summer and it’s time to go back to school!

Let’s just say that again, shall we?

94 days off.

94.

Ninety-four.

Ninety-four is so many days off I don’t even know how to spell ninety.

NINETY-FOUR.

94.

Days off.

In a row.

Holy moly and goddamn! I’d have to be disabled in some freakishly horrible accident to get that many days off—in a bloody row.

But. I have tried very. very. very hard NOT to complain this summer about … summer.

You might have noticed how I said very little. Because I was definitely not complaining.

I’ve been very quiet in this space over the summer, compared to other summers.

It’s partly because I have a young teen who is now quite sensitive about what I post, who wants to control his own online image. I respect his wishes, though it is hard for me to have to check with him about ever damn photo. I have had a gag rule imposed upon me by this amazing boy who has always taught me so much—about him, about the world, about myself. Who has been the source of so many invaluable lessons. Who has been my initiator into so many new experiences over the last 13 years. For years, writing about my life as a mother (as Lucas’s mother) has allowed me the opportunity to think, reflect, and process a whole maelstrom of feelings that at times have threatened to engulf me completely. Writing this blog has been at times a link to sanity, to the knowing voice that whispers deep and quietly within my soul.

But he gets to say. Because I love him. And I respect him.

And oh, my! There are so many amazing things about him that I’ve not said.

Gag. Rule.

And another thing: Sometimes you just have to curl up and form a chrysalis for a while. Go deep, rest and heal, in the hopes that something whole and amazing will emerge. I’m still waiting, quietly. Won’t say much about that. But, you know, I’m still here. Drop me a line?

Doesn't want to go back to school.

Asher, well … Let’s just say that Asher has had a wonderful summer full of lots of his favorite people, and lots of his favorite self-directed activities. And, in a nutshell, he isn’t all that keen to spend his days being directed by, you know, teachers and such, who have their own plan for his time.

Now, to be fair, these rather mopey pictures were taken at 7:35 this morning. Few of us are at our strongest best at 7:35 a.m., in my opinion. This afternoon, at 12:35, I received the report that the day went well for both of them. There are new teachers and it was a pretty good day.

So.

Just so. For the first day of school.

May Day Music

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On May 3, our Waldorf school celebrated May Day. It was a perfect day. Not to hot, not overcast and cool. The community turned out to celebrate the turning seasons, schoolwork in full blossom, and the soon-to-graduate eighth-grade class. It was marvelous and inspiring, as it is every year.

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(Photo by Melissa Sam Rainsford)

This year, our second graders had a part to play. They played a song on their flutes and sang, standing all in a large ring around the may pole. They were the prelude to the eighth-grade may dancers. My sweet Asher has learned to play the pentatonic flute!

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I’ve said this before, but these children are breathtakingly beautiful to me.

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(Photo by Melissa Sam Rainsford)

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(Photo by Melissa Sam Rainsford)

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Second graders

They played and sang beautifully with movements to go with their songs. I’m so proud of them. You can tell some are very happy to be performing, and others hang back a bit, a little shy to be in the spotlight with the school community watching them. They are growing so fast.

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(Photo by Melissa Sam Rainsford)

Honestly, I cannot get enough of this gap-tastic smile Asher has right now. It slays me every time he flashes it. I kind of hope his new tooth never comes in.

My littlest love at May Day

I love a boy with flowers in his hair.

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The seventh grade played the music for the eighth-grade may dancers. Most were on soprano, alto, or tenor recorders, with one boy on tambourine and another teacher accompanying them on guitar. Lucas was fond of saying they had to play the same difficult, quick song 86 times. I try to remind Lucas that he can do all kinds of things I never learned to do. (My son plays piano, flute, recorder, and violin!) These kids are more impressive with each passing month. Next year, it will be their turn to don white clothes and flower crowns and dance! Be still my heart!

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Alas, I had a major camera failure and didn’t get any pictures of the beautiful dancers this year. Something is wrong with my Canon, either in the battery charging process or else the camera is draining the battery rapidly. I suspect that perhaps it’s not really off when I flip the switch to turn the camera off. I need to take it to a shop to be cleaned, checked, and repaired, but that will have to wait. (I daydream often about getting a new, better camera.) My trusty phone ran out of available space too, so, these are the shots I got. C’est la vie!

Much love to these musicians of all ages, to the dancers, to their parents, and the school community, who together support this amazing festival every year. It fills me up and makes me hopeful and happy every time I see it.

And He’s 8

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This is my beamish boy. He turned 8 at the end of January. In the past I’ve tried to write letters to my children on their birthdays, but this year I’m struggling to keep up with all of my responsibilities. So, I’m just getting to this now.

This is my Asher. My sunbeam. My giggle. My fresh breeze.

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Asher is all I could ever want in a son. (And I can absolutely say that about both of my sons.) Asher is brave and honest, mischievous and fun-loving. He is kind and giving, and willing to pitch in. He’s a fierce warrior for justice. He is strong and righteous, but also sensitive and easily embarrassed. He is well-loved by everyone he meets. He is precious beyond all things.

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Lately Asher has had a series of brief illnesses. Several colds and a stomach bug. Nothing serious. His asthma is being well maintained, so that’s a relief. But he’s had illness after illness and it’s resulted in quite a bit of time at home with me. And while I hate when my child is sick, I do kind of love those quiet moment of cuddling and reading, working on my laptop beside him while he rests on the couch. I guess he really likes that kind of at-home time, too, because he’s been having a hard time coping on the days he’s been well enough to be at school. We seem to keep starting over. Just when he kind of gets his feet under him again and starts feeling comfortable with the school rhythm, he comes down with something new. Then he must reintegrate again. This means tears, feeling sad and lonely at school, missing mommy. He’s being supported by teachers and staff, and I couldn’t hope for a more loving environment for him. Little by little we’re bolstering him, helping him through his anxiety.

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He was in a pretty good place recently—just in time for a two week spring vacation. He was delighted to have his free time at home, with his favorite playmate Lucas and the neighborhood boys to knock around with during vacation. He likes his days easy, and prefers not to be told what to do with his time. (I can relate.)

Loves #8yearold #birthday #celebrations #family #love #boys

Anyway, I’m jumping back to January now: Asher’s 8th birthday was wonderful, full of friends and family and a visiting Bacon dog. We had his party at the indoor swimming pool like last year. Swimming in a heated pool at the end of January is a treat!

My friend Criss helped me fulfill Asher’s birthday wish: He wanted a cake depicting the Hungarian Horntail and the arena from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. No small order there! But Criss is a baking genius, and when I told her his wish she amazed me by saying, “Sure. We can do that.”

And we did.

Hungarian Horntail dragon in a rocky arena with golden egg, inspired by Harry Potter IV (vanilla cupcakes). Criss was the genius who sculpted the dragon body. I got to make the wings.  #friends #community #learning #gratitude #birthday #celebrations #8yea

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And he loved it. He even ate a bit of the gum paste dragon later on.

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He dodged the camera all day #8yearold #secondgrader #birthday #celebrations #beauty

I think the party was a big success. And I think this boy is the bees knees.

Home sick again

He teaches me something new every day. This week, since spring break ended and he went back to school, has gone better than I expected. Monday was a bit rough, but he seems to be more quickly getting back into the school rhythms. There’s nothing in the world like a happy Asher.

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I love him so!

 

Santa Lucia: Bringing the Light

I know we are a little late,  but Happy Santa Lucia! Asher's class will be singing and delivering treats today to all the classes,  K to 12. Wish I could be there.  #winter #festivals #holiday #santalucia #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #waldorfhome #se

I particularly enjoyed Santa Lucia this year, knowing that Asher was studying saints in second grade and that his class would be visiting each class in the school, K through 12, to sing and deliver treats. The second graders wore white shirts and white tunics. The oldest girl in the class dressed as Santa Lucia with a crown of candles and led the procession.

We had to postpone the festival day at school because of a big storm front that moved through Northern California, dumping loads of rain and accompanied by high winds. For the first time that I can remember, school was closed. Here in the Sacramento Valley we simply do not get “snow days.” The school administrators and grounds supervisors were worried that some of our older trees might come crashing down in the storm on our 50+-year-old campus, and they didn’t want to take the chance of having any students on campus that day.

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For me, this was a blessing in disguise because I had injured my neck and had zero mobility, tons of pain, and a job to go to. Baking buns was really not possible in the midst of all that. When the festival was postponed until Monday morning, it was great news. I was able to rally on Sunday and made the best Lussekatter buns I’ve ever made.

39 Lussekatter for second grade for Santa Lucia Day #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #waldorfhome #secondgrade #saints #baking

We were able to enjoy a lovely breakfast that morning. I wish I had some photos of the children going class to class. (When Lucas was in second grade, I was able to be there and got some lovely shots of the children all in white, singing and processing through the school. Lucas, as youngest boy, was dressed as a little gnome.) Alas, this year I had to be at work this year on that day. I’m sure they did a marvelous job of heralding the coming of the light and bringing good cheer to the school.

And as December is always full to brimming of important moments, we had our Winter Concert on the previous Friday night. The program is such that each grade, 3 through 12, performs, and some performances are a traditional part of the program. For example, the third grade always lights the menorah and sings some songs in Hebrew. The sixth grade always performs the sword dance.

This year, our seventh grade did something new and wonderful: with the help of some African drumming teachers, they performed a dance for the jungle goddess to encourage the growth and development of the coming child. Some of the students danced, and some were drummers. Lucas opted to drum, and he was far to the left, where we couldn’t see him at all.  We did not the greatest view of the stage, but I was happy because I was in a chair with my hurt neck and not sitting on a bleacher bench. Anyway, the dance and music were beautiful and exciting. It felt nice to have the energy of the concert punched up a bit with the drums.

African dance: Kakilambe #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #12yearold #seventhgrade #christmas

7th- and 8th-grade choir at the Winter Concert at #sacramentowaldorfschool  This time I could see my son! #waldorf #music #seventhgrade

The seventh and eighth grades combined in a choir to sing as well. Lucas was front and center this time, which he didn’t care to be. He seems to be in a phase where he doesn’t much want to be onstage. (Later this year they will perform an opera and he has been assigned the role of director, for which he is grateful.) There is such a rich and varied curriculum at our Waldorf school. These students get to experience so many forms of art.

As a second grader, Asher didn’t perform this year, and he wiggled and squirmed the entire way through the concert. Ian and I enjoyed it very much. (Also, my neck is now much better.)

These are some of the ways we’ve been welcoming the light.

Lime Kiln as 7th-Grade Chemistry

We said goodbye to Lucas this morning. He went off to school and won’t return from there until Wednesday evening. His class is in the middle of a chemistry block, and they are staying overnight on the farm to build and mind a lime kiln.

Yes, we totally had to look up “lime kiln.” Thank you, Wikipedia:

“A lime kiln is used to produce quicklime through the calcination of limestone (calcium carbonate). The chemical equation for this reaction is

CaCO3 + heat → CaO + CO2”

The experience is a recreation of lime plaster, as produced through a series of chemical transformations, known today as the lime cycle. Lime plaster has been used by humans a building material since 5000 BCE.

Lime Cycle diagram by Peter Bell

Lime Cycle diagram by Peter Bell

“Calcium oxide (CaO), commonly known as quicklime or burnt lime, is a widely used chemical compount. It is a white, caustic, alkaline, crystalline solid at room temperature. The broadly used term “lime” connotes calcium-containing inorganic materials, in which carbonates, oxides and hydroxides of calcium, silicon, magnesium, aluminium, and iron predominate. By contrast, “quicklime” specifically applies to the single chemical compound calcium oxide. Calcium oxide which survives processing without reacting in building products such as cement is called free lime.

Quicklime is relatively inexpensive. Both it and a chemical derivative (calcium hydroxide, of which quicklime is the base anhydride) are important commodity chemicals.”

The teacher informed us, “Today’s children have little opportunity to observe actual industrial processes. Almost everything comes magically ready-made and packaged. Nevertheless, the lime cycle studied in 7th Grade chemistry offers an opportunity for the students not only to observe an important industrial process, but to build and fire a kiln used in the process.”

So. SCIENCE! Chemistry. Construction. Fire. Campout at school. Social Arts. Collaboration. 28 seventh graders and three teachers tending a fire through the night in November. Plus a large support staff of parents. I am still amazed at the lengths to which these people will go to give our children a hands-on learning experience.

Now, Lucas is unenthusiastic about this experience. (The current phase of seventh grade seems to involve a lot less enthusiasm for everything. And lots of sighing and rolling of eyes.) He knows it will be cold and hard. He knows he will finish school on Wednesday and have to go straight into the first basketball practice of the season. He knows he will be tired. He won’t be home until dinnertime.

I know he’ll never forget it.

 

Saint Martin Lantern Walk at School

Martinmas lantern walk #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #7yearold #secondgrade

We had a wonderful time last night at Asher’s second-grade lantern walk. Our sweet teacher really wanted a mood of quiet reverence, and ultimately I think we got there, but the first few minutes of waiting for the event to begin were a tad wild. How often do large groups of 7- and 8-year-olds have the opportunity to play in the dark at their schoolyard?

When the teacher gathered the children together, they sang some wonderful songs for us. We entered the classroom, which was glowing from lantern lights atop the desks arranged all around the room’s periphery. The children sat on the floor and we parents gathered around the edges of the room. Teacher then told a beautiful story of Saint Martin walking through the cold, stormy night to reach the home of an old woman who lived high on a hill. The woman was ill and weak from hunger and thirst. Martin was bringing her bread and wine. But as the weather worsened, he fell on the path, and couldn’t see the way forward. He prayed for a light that might help him complete his mission to bring food to the ailing woman. A light appeared to brighten his way, and he was able to reach the woman in her remote home. He fed her from the loaf of bread, and gave her wine to drink. He was then amazed to see the old woman transformed into a healthy young woman, with the moon at her feet and stars about her head, who said that Martin’s way would always be lighted with the light of knowing, so that he might do his good works. And from then on, wherever the saint went, a little light was their to guide him. It became known as Martin’s lantern, and this is why we honor the saint with lanterns lighting the dark night on his feast day.

Or something to that effect. Probably Asher could tell us the story, word for word. But I’m old and I only heard it once, so … I looked it up, and it’s a story by Reg Down from the Tiptoes Lightly book The Festival of Stones.

The lanterns were distributed to their young makers, and then we set out to walk through the dark school grounds, with the second-graders leading the way. Some parents and siblings brought lanterns as well, and the second-graders sang all along their walk. Their little voices are so beautiful! We walked past the classrooms and then into the farm, threading our way through the dark paths between fields of vegetables and greens, though the little orchard and out to the pasture on the bluff, where the sound of the San Juan rapids is loudest because it is just below the pasture—one of the most beautiful spots on the American River. I wish there had been a touch more ambient light for photos.

Don't take my picture

Asher enjoyed it, as did I, but he didn’t want me to take his picture. The second-graders made their lanterns by doing papier mache over a balloon, and then suspending the lantern from a carrying stick. They worked on these over three days at school.

Before we went, I made a really fast Martinmas lantern, in case Lucas wanted to use it. (Neither of my kids wanted to make it with me: Asher because he already made his at school, and Lucas because he’s too old, in his opinion. Saints are sooooo second grade, not seventh.) Oh well. The preschooler I gave it to to carry liked it just fine!

Materials

  • clean gallon milk jug
  • sharp knife
  • glue gun and glue sticks
  • autumn leaves
  • white tissue paper
  • mod podge and paint brush
  • tea light candle

Tutorial

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It couldn’t be simpler, really. Cut the top off the milk jug, leaving the handle in place, using a sharp knife like a steak knife.

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With a glue gun, glue on pretty autumn leaves in a pleasing pattern. Decorate all sides of the jug. A lighted tea light inside will make your lantern glow nicely.

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With torn pieces of white tissue paper, decoupage over the leaves and body of the lantern. You can use colored paper if you like. I wanted my leaves to really show through, so I used white paper. You don’t really have to do this step, but if you’d like your lantern to look less like a milk container, do this part. It will dry fairly quickly.

You can use the milk jug’s handle to carry your lantern, or you can add a yarn handle. Poke three small holes in the top of the lantern with your knife. Be careful not to put them too close to the very top edge.

Fingerknit three strands of yarn, about three feet long, to make a hand-width handle. The ends off either side of the finger-knitted section should be long. Thread the ends into the holes you pierced into the handle. Then tie them off, making sure the lantern hangs level from the yarn.

Happy Martinmas!

Finally, put a bit of hot glue on the bottom of a tea light candle and glue it down to the bottom of your lantern. This makes it safer. You don’t want your candle bouncing around inside the lantern.

New lantern for Martinmas #waldorf #waldorfhome #festivals #holiday #martinmas

So, how do you celebrate this darkening time of year? Do you do something special for Martinmas on one day, or do you make a week or so of it? Will you enjoy your lantern on many evening walks this fall? Remember it can be used more than just one night.

(More lantern-making crafts can be found in our Martinmas & Thanksgiving Festival E-Book.)

“Letter from Home” Age of Sail

BALCLUTHA at Hyde St. Pier

What an opportunity! My son is on a seventh-grade trip to the Balclutha, a tall ship moored in San Francisco Harbor that was built in 1886. They will be there about 18 hours, during which they will work on the ship. We parents were asked to write a letter to our child, as if we were living in the Age of Sail (or in the early Renaissance, which is what they really are studying right now), and the child had been gone a while at sea. Here is my letter.

Star of Alaska (BALCLUTHA) under sail

Dearest Son,

It has been eight long months since we received your last letter. We take it out of our special items box every Sunday evening to read it again. We all talk about you and wonder what you are doing at sea, and we never fail to pray for your safety and well-being, morning and night.

At home, life goes on just how you probably remember it. Father wakes very early each morning to do all the heavy lifting around here. I wake in the dark and make us all a hearty breakfast. We are blessed with a full larder, thanks to Father’s hard work and sound investments. I have been enjoying being creative in the kitchen. The morning air is full of autumn’s chill now, but the days are still bright and warm. It looks to be a good harvest this year. All the farmers hereabouts go to and fro with a smile on their faces. In two weeks we will go to the harvest festival.

Your brother is the one who changes quickly. You might not recognize him now. He has grown so tall. His teacher at school tells us that he is learning his letters and plays well with the other children. How fortunate we are to be able to send our children to school! Sometimes I wonder, Son, whether you miss your carefree days at the schoolyard, learning sums and verses, and playing games with your friends. Now that you’ve gone to sea, I expect your days are full of labor and adventure.

I met a woman at the market last week, who told me that her husband, a Captain in the Navy, says that life aboard a ship is terribly frightful at times, with storms and weather beating the sailors down, day in and day out. But I wonder if there might also be times of boredom—if, perhaps, you sometimes find yourselves adrift in calm, glassy seas without a wind to blow you onward. I’m sure that able-bodied Seamen such as you and your mates still have plenty to do during such times. I beseech you, My Son, please do keep your behavior Godly and seemly, and I pray that you do not fall prey to temptations you might encounter when you anchor off the coast of some island town, where there might be vicious scoundrels and worse.

Forgive me, Son. I know you are a man now, making your way in the world using your good mind and strong body. I know you will succeed and make Father and me proud. I wait eagerly for your next letter. Please write to us to tell us that you are safe and sound. Remember that we pray to God for your safe return to us, and that, while you are away, you meet with fair winds and favorable seas.

Blessings upon you.

Sincerely,

Your Mother

 

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

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    "Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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