Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Tradition Of The Sandpaper Gingerbread Babies

Last night the parents of our Pre-3 children convened for our final parent meeting of the year, one at which we've traditionally combined business and education with a bit of potluck good cheer. Fittingly, I think, we took the time as we ate from paper plates on our laps to go around the circle, each of us sharing about a holiday tradition, real or aspired to. 

Being a cooperative preschool, I've been working with most of these people at least since September, although many have been my colleagues for years by now, and as well as I think I know them, I've come to look forward to this ritual. It may seem like such a little thing, these tiny glimpses into their lives beyond the preschool, but I feel I learn so much about them in those brief moments. Almost everyone carries the group back to childhood, speaking about December traditions they cherish, that they are trying to recreate, or that they are trying to improve upon as they lay the groundwork for what their children will one day share in a similar circle.

I'm always surprised by how varied and even exotic our backgrounds are, because I tend to know us as being all pretty much the same -- northend Seattleites with children in co-op. I hope we all walked away last night with an appreciation of how many roads can carry us to this exact place at this precise time, and how special it is that we've meet at this crossroads in good cheer and commaraderie to, at least for a time, raise our children together.

Last week as Ariya and Suriya's mom Aya (at whose home we met last night) sat down in the classroom in her role as art parent to assist in the creation of sandpaper and oil pastel gingerbread babies, she mentioned that she'd managed this same art project in years past. When Charlie L.'s mom Shelly assumed that same role in the 3-5's class last week she said the same thing. I've been breaking this one out for 9 years now, always during the final week before our year-end break, one of the few traditional things we do (along with putting up the balloon cage for my birthday in February and painting watercolor dragons for Chinese New Year). Eighteen times now, I've sat there at the same turquoise-topped table and dulled my scissors on sandpaper while waiting for the children to arrive, imagining what kind of surrogate selves they'll create. 

Sometimes traditions are intentional, but the ones that take on the most meaning for many of us, the ones we tend to share in parent meetings after warming ourselves with a glass of wine, are those that have come about almost by accident, ones we might not have realized were traditions at all. Our sandpaper gingerbread baby tradition is like that, one that came out of a new teacher's desperate desire to offer something "seasonal" to the children. I did it then because I was out of ideas. I do it now because it means everything. Knowing that it's become an unintentional tradition for other members of the Woodland Park community warmed me more than the wine. 

Aya is expecting twin girls. When 2-year-old Suriya joined her at the art table last week, he took two of our sandpaper "babies" and told her he was going to make his sisters, choosing pink as his primary color. It could have been an accident, but it's probably because that's the "favorite color" of so many girls he knows.

I imagine that Aya will save these. I will too, as part of the tradition of the sandpaper gingerbread babies.

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Elle Belles Bows said...

Lovely post! May all of our hearts be warmed with past traditions and new found ones too. Thanks for sharing. Kerri

Anonymous said...

I was a co-op teacher for years and I loved those sessions where the parents share about their own lives. Thanks for all the photos of gingerbread people - I ended up going into mitten stories this December instead of the gingerbread man - but I'm headed that way in January - it will be less crazy anyway. I'd forgotten about using sandpaper so thanks for the reminder.