I Am Isabel the Storyteller

A topnotch WordPress.com site

Category: put the TV away to get more time in a new family

#30. I’M OUTSIDE AT SCHOOL, THEN THE FOUR SQUARE INCIDENT HAPPENS

Our school credo says recess is a planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks. Nobody gets punished by depriving recess. (We have “Opportunity Room” after school to provide kids the “opportunity” to learn something they didn’t because maybe they made unwise choices.) Although all 200 students aren’t outside at one time, it is always a multi-age group. (All non-academic time is multi-aged BTW: lunch, gym, music, art, special projects, community outreach.) At recess students are encouraged to rest, play, imagine, think, move, socialize, or loiter; for me this means sitting on a bench near the Four Square Games area. 

The Clyde episode is all solved, and I’m  worn out; non-emergency times show me how much I’m powered by the fight or flight chemicals. (I know. I know. This is not healthy. Mayhap, as Dad would say, corrosive to your innards.)

Back to the Four Square game in progress nearby. I used to like four-square, but now I slouch on this bench, hiding behind my curly “wild” hair. (I forgot to scrunchie it today.) Each time a player hits the ball to another square, this player exits the square, and the partner jumps in.  I’ve been half-listening to kids yelling Outside! Inside! Outside! Inside!  Four kids stand in the four squares, and a line of kids, ready to jump in when a player goes out, wait outside the squares.

I haven’t played since coming to Mimi and Pop’s. I’m not sure I could stand it.  Bench-sitting is better.  (If you believe that, I’ll sell you a bridge in the Sonora Desert.) Dad showed me the tricks with the game. In the morning before school, we talk tactics. What’s the Four Square scheme today, Isabel? he says.  In Four Square it’s a rule that you can make up rules during a game. And it’s a rule that you can’t violate any of the rules. At breakfast Dad and I sketch the game court in the margin of the newspaper and diagram some tricky maneuver or rule.

Suddenly Oliver is in the game. His “Upper Grade” class has just come onto the playground. Most of them are hanging around the climbing wall, trapeze bar, belt swings and gym rings. Not Oliver. He’s in the Four Square game! I’m not sure how he finagled it. Hey! Wanna play, Isabel? The kids watch to see what I’ll do, not because Oliver is an Older Guy, but they’re looking to see if I budge, Isabel, the non-verbal, passive new kid. 

I step into square one.

My PAUSE button unpauses. The line re-forms, and that’s it; I play the rest of recess.

Walking home, it’s just me and Oliver—the twins have half-days for the first month. He asks me how long I’ve been playing.

It’s hard for me to gather the words to answer Oliver’s question. I get the Dad-is-Nearby feeling, maybe cupping his ear to hear me and placing his palm at my back to nudge me. I do not want to tear up. If Oliver goes all sympathetic and googoo-eyes, I might lose it. And then I’m going to want to be outside again.

I make a throat-clearing noise, checking my microphone to see if it’s working. My Dad taught me how to play when I started Kindergarten. We used to talk Four Square every morning.

Before, huh? Every day. Wow. 

Yup. Before. It was one of our rituals.

Tough.  Oliver’s been kicking a rock as we talk. Now he kicks it on the slant. I take it overWe make a plan to meet at Zia’s barn the next morning. Oliver, the twins, and me. We decide that walking along the pasture fencing will be more fun than the road. It’ll give us a chance to say hi to the calves, lambs, and Sir Isaac. (I’m getting “trained” to curry Sir Isaac on my own when Oliver has Fall baseball practice.)

Think we can figure out a new rule? Oliver asks.

Sure, I answer. Then I make my voice bigger.  Hey, we might even sketch it out.

I’m in.

isabelinchair

ISABEL

#18. What do you get when you mix socks, underwear, chores, great books, and television? You get one item from this list removed to a closet. Really. The closet.


Socks and underwear, Pop? I bristle like a porcupine. Girls don’t need help with socks and underwear.

Not you, Isabel. Sam and Clyde. You know how they are. 

The guys bounce like Tigger. They think they’re being complimented.

How about “chores?”  I do stuff. 

Tons. You’re a huge help. Pop pats my hand. But I think we can get the boys emptying baskets and setting the table.

I tap the next item. Read aloud? 

We want to read aloud every day after supper. To do it right we’ll need a stack of  good books, so when we finish one, we won’t have a gap before we start another. 

I love the read aloud plan.

Mom and Dad believed in the power of read alouds to tie a family together. Here’s how it worked:  We’d have one book that all of us would lie around and listen to. Dad was reading the “Frances Tucket” series. I’d missed it when it first came out and loved it. We’d gotten to the 4th book. I know the boys didn’t get it completely, but they liked being part of the MomDadIsabel group; it stretched their listening attention span. They’d cuddle up and settle in ‘til the reader said That’s it for now or they fell asleep.  I KNOW they didn’t understand all the plot twists in Toad for Tuesday, but they loved Wharton and George; they cried when they thought George was going to be eaten by the fox. On my own I read other books too. And Mom and Dad also read simpler books to Clyde and Sam when I wasn’t around. If Pop and Mimi read aloud, that will make me happier.

And this supper table one?

No more eat and run. We want us to have discussions. 

We sit and talk already.

Well, we need to PLAN to sit and talk. Right now we jump up because a game or show’s on television. Pop circles the word TELEVISION. We need to cut down. He scribbles tiny numbers in the notebook margin.

We mostly watch Sesame Street, ball games, The Great British Baking Show, ball games, The Electric Company, ball games, Rachel Maddow,  ball games, Carmen Sandiego, ball games, Wild Kratts, ball games.

Which shows?  I ask. I’m hoping it isn’t Little House on the Prairie. Crazily enough, I grew up without knowing this series. With Pop and Mimi, we’re binge-watching all the seasons. (Mom would have disapproved; but all five of us love it.) Also I’m addicted to Earth to Ned: Picture a four-armed alien hosting a talk show with human guests, postponing his invasion of Earth. Think puppets, silliness, irony, attitude—good for adults and kids. (Of course, Mom and Dad never had us watch TV, but I don’t think Pop and Mimi know this and I didn’t think I needed to tell.)

Well, we can’t cut Wild Kratts but still watch the Red Sox. Mimi is shelling peas and has a mulling brow on her.

Cut the Sox? I was just getting into them, too.

In fact, Pop leans forward like he is gearing up for a big hill on his bike. Let’s get rid of it. He sits back, relaxed. Games tempt me, but not if the TV’s gone. He looks at the numbers. I’ve added it upIf we eliminate that hour a day during the week and the games on weekends, we’d gain 10 to 15 hours. 

So, that’s what we did. The TV went in the front hall closet. Anytime I open the door to get my jacket, I can see it behind the vacuum cleaner.

Signing off, or should I say, sighing off–

ISABEL SCHEHERAZADE

Isabelcurlyheadfrombackonchair

 

#19 Adventures in hollowed out trees, beside spider webs with words in them, inside a secret wardrobe, and down by the river with a Trumpter Swan. One of Pop’s rules is a sure-fire winner.

(Way-Back-Seat Story) Once, I traveled with Dad and a swan to hunt down a trumpet. He (this swan born without a voice) needed a real trumpet so he could win over the love of his life. (The Trumpet and the Swan)  Before that adventure, Dad and I make friends with this kid named Sam who lived all alone on the side of a mountain with a weasel and falcon in a hollowed-out tree. (I really like this Sam, but now that I don’t have my old, regular family, I’m bewildered as to why he ran away from a perfectly good family just because it was crowded in their apartment!) (My Side of the Mountain)

(Front-Seat Story) Now, with Pop, we’ve wandered through the door of a closet (called a wardrobe) and emerged in  a place called Narnia. (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) Before Narnia, we witnessed a spider save a pig by writing words in her web. (Charlotte’s Web)

Get what I’m talking about here? The rule about doing lots of read-alouds? It’s is a sure-fire winner.

For hours and hours I lie on my stomach on the rug or grass, or I curl up on the couch or chaise lounges. The twins too, but usually they’ve got their Lightning McQueens with them. In the beginning, they move their trucks around, but gradually they’re hypnotized by Pop’s voice and the story. Cool.

Pop readsreadsreads. We decided to get into the listening-to-great-books habit by doing it all day for a few days in a row. We DO take short breaks to hike the woods around Bull Pond and swim in Rock Brook right under Pop’s bridge and go to the playground for some adventure-swinging, but the rest of the day we listen.

And I’m not sad while I’m listening. Except at the end when Charlotte dies. I keep swallowing the lump in my throat. The twins cry.  Mimi weeps. Pop blows his noise and tells us a story about the author, E. B. White. A recorded-books company asked him to be the reader for their Charlotte’s Web audio book. But even he had to read that last part three times before he could do it without crying. Mainly though, about not being continually sad? Who could be sad with friends like Wilbur the Pig and Charlotte.

ISABEL

cropped-isabelcrossleg2.jpg

 

%d bloggers like this: