(I realize I am soon becoming the Queen of Grief, but you can always read the “Molting Chicken” entry after this one and restore some balance.)

Last Sunday Amie played in her Orchestra concert. This concert featured four Rivers Youth Orchestras, from Preparatory (that Amie is in) to Symphony. It’s absolutely riveting to follow the progress from beginners to as-good-as professional orchestra. The Symphony played Elgar’s Nimrod (Enigma Variation IX). This piece always brings tears to my eyes and they played it superbly, with great restraint and sensitivity.  It’s for the same reason that I prefer this version to, say, Solti conducting.

Nimrod is a tragic landscape: a gentle rise, dramatic summit, then the plunge off the map. As a story, it is sweetness, triumph and then, as for all music, all stories: silence, oblivion. All in under four minutes. It’s like the whole life of a person I would love to meet, beginning to end. You think, when it ends so quickly: wait… what?! It’s unfinished, unfinished. And it’s a species on a planet, taking billions of years to grow into its own, exploding in a matter of a century, then slipping away, quite suddenly, like a question. What happened? Where did they go? Those questions cannot be answered, but one thing is for sure: they will not be back. That’s what this piece is to me: a great goodbye.

Today Amie and I had planned to go on the first leg of the Energy Exodus march, but a nasty and (f0r me) unusual allergy attack had me up till 4 am, when I caved and finally took that Benadryl. I never take those because they knock me out completely. I woke up late, still drowsy, and told Amie we wouldn’t be going. She was disappointed. She really wanted to march and say her piece. We had made a great sign for her to hold:

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The Exodus is a five-day walk, though, so we’ll try to hop on in the middle, or meet them at the end.

In between sniffles, relishing the cleansing sweat in the hot sun, I watered the thirsty garden (by hand; the irrigating tote has been empty for a while now). I also put the two poor pullets back into their little coop. The poor things were exhausted from hiding in dear and being pecked on, and then when one broke an egg they were so hungry – the hens hadn’t allowed them to eat much – they went for it. Not a good thing! Maybe I set them back to square one by pulling them out, but perhaps they just need to put on a little more weight. We’ll see.

Back inside Amie and I turned to her old school backpack. It’s the one she used the year before last year, a hand-me-down that is still in very good shape. Amie wanted “something new,” though, so we decided to decorate it. She made the designs and we applied our considerable sewing skills (ahem) to it. At first she wanted to keep the brand name visible, but when we talked about how it is now really her backpack, she asked to cover it up. Voila, debranded!

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She is so proud of it. As she sewed, she kept chattering about how her friends will be SO AMAZED. They’d better be!

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DH, SIL and I worked till midnight getting the galimoto’s framework ready for the birthday party. It was fun, chatting, listening to music on the porch while bending and wrapping wires.  And the kids, mostly aged eight, really got into it, though some parts were pretty challenging. With some help they stuck with it. In the end we didn’t have the time to attach the push rod, so we kept all the bicyclists with the promise to deliver them once we’ve done that and their model magic heads have dried. But here they are. One is werewolf!

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Amie’s birthday is coming up and so is her party. We always do small parties at home with homemade cake and games. For many years we’ve asked the guests not to bring presents, but then I noticed how proud and happy Amie always is to give her present to her friends when it’s their party. So this year Amie will get presents.

That also means we are making goody bags for all the guests (5 kids). This concept of goody bags was new to me. In Belgium the guests get the gift of giving. In India, where DH is from,  the birthday child gets the gift of giving. In neither case is there this reciprocity.

So, what to give in the goody bag? I will not get the pencils from China with the broken leads or the cheap cosmetics that seem de rigeur in girl’s goody bags. And what kind of games to play? We’ll definitely do a treasure hunt because the cake will, again, disappear (this is Tradition), but pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and pass-the-parcel are getting old. Why not combine the two challenges?

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A month or so ago, at our landfill’s Give-and-Take, a place where much goodness is up fro grabs, we found the little guy on the right. It’s a galimoto bicyclist. Amie wheeled it into a store after picking it up and it charmed everyone! So the idea is that each kid gets one of these skeletons and lots of materials to dress it up. Each kid will have a grownup to help her out. It will keep them sweet for at least an hour and it will be their goody.

Galimotos are cheap, ingenious toys with movable parts (here the legs move up and down as the wheels turn) that are frequently made by children in Africa.  Ingenious is the word! Challenging too. Today I replicated it once (toy on the right). Took me two hours, aching fingertips and it still needs fine-tuning. But I also got to listen to Tristan and Isolde.  And I canned some apple sauce while I was at it.

 

 

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Amie sewed this! I am very terribly awfully bad at sewing – any kind of needlework, actually. I blame it on a tyrannical needlework teacher I had in secondary school. Also, I don’t have the patience. So I am happy to delegate the learning and practicing of this skill  to my daughter.

She took a sewing class which revolved around making this beautiful ball gown fitted for an American Girl Doll (AMG). She doesn’t have an AMG and doesn’t want one, either. She has several reasons for this, but mostly she doesn’t want one because one of her very best friends doesn’t have one either and if she got one, it would make her friend feel bad.  Amie decided to take the class anyway, because she understood that what she would get out of it was not the dress, but the skill. She decided she will give the dress away to a friend who does have an AMG.

Back in the day when this was a Mama blog, I used to report so often on Amie’s art and drawing. There is a whole series about her early drawings on  here, somewhere  (enter “drawing” in the search engine). It caught the attention of Brent and Marjory Wilson, who wrote about Amie in the new foreword to the new edition of their classic, Teaching Children to Draw.  Amie still draws, but there so many other things in her busy seven-year-old life, like playing with her friends and the chickens in the garden, that this once-a-day occurrence/sometimes-obsession has been put on the back burner. That she still has the knack, though, became clear today, when she brought home this self-portrait from school:

I was truly blown away by it. What a kind face!