Friday, November 22, 2013

On This Date in 1998

It’s T-minus 30 minutes until the kick-off of today’s big game, at least as far as the Upper Midwest is concerned. Packers vs. Vikings in the dome. We hope that it’s time for some green-and-gold revenge. Yesterday was a proud day for Wisconsin, as the Badgers convincingly beat Penn State, 24-3. It was almost the first time since Paterno’s rookie season as coach that the Nittany Lions were shut out twice. JoAnna and I watched the game on TV from start to finish, cheering or groaning on every play. 

What beautiful weather we are experiencing this weekend. Although it’s a bit on the breezy side, the sun is shining and the air is warm – the temperature already at 50 degrees. Yesterday I tied up our cedar trees so the branches won’t fan out so much. I think they are now ready for the first heavy snowfall of the winter season, which at this rate might never arrive. (I wouldn’t be on it, though.) 

Since Joey Kracht seemed eager to play with Eddie last weekend, Eddie gave him a call yesterday morning. Instead of inviting Joey to our house, he invites himself to Joey’s house, a faux pas that JoAnna caught and corrected. 

“But I don’t have any good toys to play with,” Eddie complained. 

JoAnna tried to explain to him that real friends are more interested in you than in your toys. Joey was here from 2:45 to 5:00, and he enjoyed every minute of his visit, which I think helped Eddie to understand what Mom was telling him. 

After supper last night (meat loaf – which even the boys described as very tasty – baked potatoes, corn and beans), the family went to see The Rugrats Movie, which was at the top of Eddie’s must-see list. I found it a bit tedious, the diapered-kids-lost-in-the-forest storyline almost bizarre, and the musical numbers intrusive. Even Eddie rated it only a half-hearted “OK” as we walked back to the car. Of course, nowadays, even a mediocre movie is an enjoyable experience with the latest movie theater upgrade: stadium seating, the rows of upholstered chair fanning upward from the screen. It’s nice for the boys, especially Eddie, since now we don’t have to switch seats if an adult sits in front of them. 

Time for a change of pace. 

Fifth grade in 1998. Fifth grade in 1960. 

Second grade in 1998. Second grade in 1957. 

I often think about my school and home life experiences during grade school compared with the boys’. I think it would make an interesting article, but what I first need to do is make some notes. So if you’ll pardon my indulgence, I’ll start this task right now. 

  • The classroom. Our desks in Mrs. Johnson’s class, as they were in every class at Jefferson School, are arranged in five rows. One of the first things I noticed when I volunteered at Elm Lawn was the varied arrangements of desks. Last year, for example, the desks in Andy’s classroom were clustered in groups of four and five. This year his teacher set up a double-U arrangement, with nobody an island. 
  • The school day. Grade school students spend a lot of time out of the classroom nowadays. Music, art, special science and math programs, computer instruction, gym, library – all are scheduled on at least a twice-a-week basis. Jefferson had a library, at the south end of the second floor hallway, but I recall only infrequent visits and I don’t think it was staffed by a librarian. I remember it now as similar to the interior of a bookmobile. 
  • Recess. Three recess breaks are scheduled each day: morning, after lunch, and afternoon. I remember occasional trips to the gym or outside on nice days, but most of our time, it seems, was spent in the classroom. 
  • Extracurricular activities. Andy and Eddie have been involved in Middleton’s soccer program since kindergarten. I doubt if anyone knew what soccer was when I attended Jefferson. Almost all of the sports activities I participated in during grade school were part of what is now called unstructured play, mostly waffle ball games during the summer. Today there are more opportunities for involvement, although I’m sure the YMCA would have been an option if I had shown any real interest in a sport outside of baseball. Andy is light years ahead of my physical (fitness) development. In fact, he and Ross and Drew and Riley are on the varsity track, working their way through the “minor leagues” of high school sports. 
  • Relationships. Andy has started to show an incipient interest in girls, beyond the “Meaghan stage” for friendship. He doesn’t claim to have a girlfriend, someone for whom he has special feelings. It was during 5th grade with I developed a crush on Mary Sandblade, an on-and-off puppy-love relationship that needed halfway through 9th grade. I also had a close relationship with Cam Tassone during 5th grade. We sat in the last two desks in the row along the window and seemed to carry on a running commentary about events and personalities in the classroom. It would be so interesting to listen to a tap of those conversation now. 

 I’m not doing a very good job of concentrating on this letter right now. The Packer game is competing for my attention. At the end of the 1st quarter, the picture is not pretty. Green is down 10-0, Favre first dropping the ball soon after the snap, which resulted in a Vikings field goal, and then, on the next offensive series, throwing an interception for a Vikings touchdown. Arrgh! Things are not looking good. I’m surprised JoAnna hasn’t changed the channel yet. Before the game started, she said to no one in particular, “I wonder if there’s any good movies on this afternoon.” Alternative viewing for when the game gets ugly. That development, unfortunately, is already in progress.

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