Friday, February 25, 2011

Dad's birthday at Janesville Elementary.

I was lucky to be pretty close to my folks. Still am. Things like that don't change even though they've been dead for years. Sometimes people ask me if I think of them much, I say, "I think of my mom all the time, but I don't have to think of my dad. You see, every move I make reminds me that I am his son. Not that we looked exactly alike or anything, (We didn't. He was taller and better looking.), but my mannerisms, vocalisms, and movements seem to match his more every day.
This is the dedication in my book A Farm Country Christmas Eve.
When I do a show I add, "...who made my growing up on the farm a wonderful experience."

Anyway, you can imagine that he was on my mind on his birthday, February 18, as Nancy and I drove Highway 60 west of Faribault and turned south on Elysian Lake Road toward Janesville to do three performances at Janesville Elementary School. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was great. I remember thinking, "If we were on a trip to another state and witnessed scenery like this we'd be taking pictures, but since it's so close to home, one takes the beauty for granted." Then I remembered that Dad had said something like that once.
  Don't I have any original thoughts!
 My first show was If I were a Farmer: Nancy's Adventure  for about 90 K-1 and 10 adults. When audience members are this young, I keep my introduction really short, but I keep the prologue because the meter and rhyme help grab the attention of the kids. I like to see them smile when I show them the picture of Dad making a mustache with the cow's tail. He was always goofing around, trying to make things fun.

Janesville Elementary School is in the Janesville-Pemberton-Waldorf District. Last year we did three shows at JWP Elementary in Waldorf, which was a very nice, small school but too big for the number of students so it had to be closed. Now the kids all go to Janesville Elementary, which is also a very nice small school that has a cozy auditorium for programs.

Although I usually prefer doing my shows in the classroom because it keeps me closer to the kids in the audience, you can see in the above picture that the auditorium at Janesville allows a pretty close arrangement, as well. Students had comfortable seats and could see me and the screen really clearly.

In the picture of the group 87 second and third graders and their teachers below, you see I am able to walk from one side to the other to keep the group involved. This group would be pretty crowded in a classroom, but here there is plenty of room and I can still get close to them.

 The group of  80 fourth and fifth graders and their teachers sit comfortably in the picture below as I begin my story A Farm Country Thanksgiving.

In the story, it snows during the night before Thanksgiving Day, so when ten-year-old Jimmy and his parents walk to the barn in the morning, the earth is white and sparkling, which inspires a bit of horseplay. The illustration on the screen in the picture below shows the family goofing around.
I think you can see the illustration, but I repeat the text below for you to read:
The morning was dark, but we walked in the glow
Of the moonlight reflected by new-fallen snow.
As we trudged to the barn, the pure whiteness of Earth
Lifted our spirits to heights of great mirth.
"Let's build a big snowman," I jokingly said.
Then Dad dumped a handful of snow on my head.
Mom giggled and uttered a short phrase in Czech
As she stuffed a big fistful of snow down Dad's neck!

This was typical of the kind of "play" that could erupt during the most difficult of work circumstances when I worked with my parents on the farm.
The Janesville students seemed to enjoy the story and the relationship between family members that it displays. After the show, they asked lots of good questions, several of which were about my parents and my sisters. Several of them said they remembered my show from last year and told me how much they enjoyed it. I don't mind hearing that!
It's a great school with great kids and teachers. I hope they invite me back again soon.

During the drive home, Nancy and I discussed that we were pleased with how the day went, but since we were also tired, we both fell silent after about 20 miles.

My thoughts went back to Dad and those morning scenes.
He'd sing as he got dressed for morning milking, not that he knew all the words to any particular song, but not knowing the words never stopped Dad from singing. He'd make up words that rhymed with other non words he sang.The more work we had to do the louder he'd sing. Somehow I can't imagine doing chores any other way.

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