On the last day of school yesterday, I sat down and wrote a letter to the five Interns who were with us all Fall. It was hard to believe that that whole adventure happened in this same school year, but the calendar says it was so. Following my life path of living musically, connecting the theme at the end with the theme at the beginning, it felt right to write. Here’s the letter:
Hello my friends,
It is the last day of school. I’m sitting in the library. 8th graders are outside signing yearbooks, Jeff and Jorge are putting out the carpet squares in the Community Center, Solveig is working on the flowers, Talia is touring her boyfriend (!) around the school— the usual hub-bub of a day in the life of school. But this is the last day. So as you can imagine, the ceremonial forces are gathering!
How I wish you could be here to witness it, to be part of the closing as you were at the opening! You’ll miss the hilarious “mud-pie” dessert—ice cream, crumbled oreo cookies, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. The kids have to sing (of course!) our special song (sung to the tune of “One Bottle of Pop”):
1) 1 Mud pie, 2 Mud pie, 3 Mud pie, 4 Mud pie,
5 Mud pie, 6 Mud pie, 7 Mud pie, Yum!
2) Ice cream, sauce and oreos, oreos, oreos,
Ice cream, sauce and oreos, Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, Yum!
3) Don’t take a bite of my mud pie, my mud pie, my mud pie
Don’t take a bit of my mud pie, my mud pie’s mine.
At the end of the song, they have to sit up straight, look down at their mud pie and be perfectly still for 30 seconds while looking at their mud pie. If they move or laugh or talk, we take their mud pie away. Really! (Then we have a way to earn it back—60 seconds of sitting still!). To make it harder, I try to make them laugh. By squeezing the rubber chicken. It’s the most delicious torture.
Then the big gathering in the Community Center and guess what song we open with? Side by Side, of course. Steve’s remarks, Simple Gifts song, each teacher says something briefly about their class and then “gongs” them up to the next grade. (The kids literally move one row up). An acknowledgment of all the teachers leaving and then the song Que Sera, then the Graduation song for the 8th graders, my new words to the tune of The Girl From Ipanema, then we sing again the song we sang at the beginning, Junkanoo. with new lyrics I made up a half hour ago:
We played a bell, we played a drum.
This school year is now done.
We felt that lively beat
Gathered here on Gaven Street.
Thanks to all, we want to say,
For this year of work and play.
Now it’s time for summer,
So come on, let’s go!
8th grader Koji and 1st grader Sofia come out to gong out the old year, all the staff go outside, we line up for the Hug Line— the kids coming through and hugging everyone goodbye one by one— and we’re done!!And then I go off to sing with Fran and Edie and Company at the Jewish Home for the Aged.
Everyone says that time goes so quickly, but thinking back to you all being here at the end of August last year for the opening ceremony really feels like several lifetimes ago! To you also? It’s amazing to think that this was part of the same year! But of course, a lot has happened in-between. I got to see three of you in your native lands, you’ve been back in the rhythm of your old (but renewed) lives, the kids have grown two feet. But still Dorian has his smile, Nate still hides from me at the beginning of each class, a group of 4th grade girls won the Samba Contest! (the 6th grade batteria was great!), the North class 5’s still run in to music squealing with delight and the preschool kids still greet me with their enthusiastic “Doug!!” when I walk into preschool singing.
Three days ago, Karen and I showed some slides at Elementary Singing Time to celebrate our 40th and 41st years with the kids there. Laura and James wrote a cute song to the tune of Love and Marriage:
Art and Music, Doug and Karen, Color wheels, glockenspiels
Over 40 years a school they’re sharin’ Art and music show the way we feel
No-one could ever follow ya Jazz and painting and weaving
(Except maybe your daughter Talia) Don’t you ever think of leaving!
Paper, painting, drawing, sculpture, yarn and ceramics
Songbooks, xylophones and Samba, rhythm, tempo (and don’t forget dynamics)
Doug and Karen, what a pairin’,
All the heart and soul that you’ve been sharin’
Hear our adulation, you’re at the heart of education
You’re at the heart, music and art, you’re at the heart of education!
Such a blessing this life that came to me. After 40 years, still wondering when I’ll choose to leave it for something else, but not next year, for sure. And the 5th graders are such extraordinary musicians that I feel I should at least wait until I have them for 8th grade. We’ll see what the world has in store for me. (If I was offered a tour with the Pentatonics, I’d take it in a second!)
Thanks for sharing a piece of it with me and Sofia and James and thanks for being such a big piece of it! We are forever connected by our shared experience and I’m grateful for that. Okay, James is doing a last-minute version of a play Momontaro with the 5’s, so I’m off to see it!
Love to you all,