Sunday, 15 December 2013

The School Christmas Feast / Finding The Christmas Spirit

    “For it is in giving that we receive.” 

    I have been harassing our poor principal for a few years now.  I really wanted to have a huge holiday meal that all of the children in our school could sit together and enjoy.  Every year I would suggest it would be a great idea and that perhaps school council could put it on.  I think that she figured that the workload would fall on her shoulders and the shoulders of the other staff.  To her credit although she was not a keener on the idea she would open it up to the other council members and ask what they thought.  Their silence was always deafening.  I however remained undaunted.  I knew that eventually there would be other parents who wanted the same things that I did, or I could eventually wear our poor principal down.  That happened this year!
    I am most fortunate to head up the most amazing group of loving parents on our school council.  These mostly mothers and a committed Dad really care about our school.  They care about their children, but also the whole well being of all of the children in our school.  It is such a pleasure to walk into those meetings and meet with such committed individuals.  I honestly feel like there is nothing that we could not do.  This year when I did my annual "What do you think about having a big holiday dinner for the whole school?  Maybe it's something that we as a school council could do."  I was met with a resounding "YES!"  Every parent at that table was excited, every parent wanted this for their children and for the children in our school community.  I think that perhaps our poor principal was cursing me in her head, but in the there she agreed to it.

        That began our planning.  We decided on our menu, roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries (me thinking that not many kids would eat them, but that they were festive.  Turns out they were a huge hit), corn, raw baby carrots and sliced cucumber and a buttered roll with cookies for dessert.  None of us had the faintest idea how much we would have to prepare for almost 400 children and staff.  Many emails were exchanged.  In the end we settled on one turkey per grade, with a ten pound bag of potatoes per class, and we all crossed our fingers and toes.

    I had my cookie exchange with my friends on Monday night and sent each friend away with at least one turkey and a ten pound bag of potatoes.  It was quite a comical parting gift.  Each person would cook their turkey and cut it up and cook potatoes and mash them.  How many cookie exchanges do you go to where you are expected to cook a turkey and a bag of potatoes?  After I had bid adieu to my last guest I went to get my own turkeys to cook... there were none left.  Now this in theory is the best news ever, but then I began to feel guilty that it was my idea, and I had nothing to do.  I am so silly.
    That night when everyone was here visiting, Rowan and a friend were wrestling upstairs, and he injured his thumb.  He was sure that it was broken.  We iced it, gave him Tylenol and convinced him to try to get some sleep.  If it was still sore in the morning I would take him into emergency.  He was able to fall asleep and I foolishly thought that was the end of the story.  When he woke the next morning his thumb was still quite sore, and noticeably swollen.  The day that I had planned to dedicate to getting things ready for the big turkey dinner the next day was instead spent in the waiting room of our local ER.  Being the fool that I am, with the guilt complex that I have, I had volunteered to cook fifty pounds of potatoes.  The reality of it was just making my family potatoes five times, no biggy.  I had all day after all.  We arrived home at eight O'Clock that night ( I did however make a stop at Walmart and pick up a Santa Claus suit).  I tucked the kids into bed and began to peel an almost limitless amount of potatoes.  At 1:00 am I covered my last large tinfoil dish of whipped potatoes and tucked myself into bed, feeling happy if I never again had to look at another single potato.

    The next morning I went into school with the kids to get things ready for our big day.  We had decided that we wanted this to be a sit down meal that the kids could all enjoy not only the good food, but to be able to conversations with their friends and really be able to enjoy their experience.  To do this effectively we would break the lunch into three different sittings, the first one beginning at 11:35.  We had lots to do, and not a lot of time to do it in.  

    It is at this point that I have to say what an amazing group of parents we had volunteer their time to help those children at our school have an amazing experience.  When I arrived at the school I was met with bright and cheery faces wondering what we should do, amazing.  No one just stood around, everyone rolled up their sleeves and dove right in.  

    We had a pretty amazing warming system in place.  Many of us Mom's brought in our counter top roasters and crock pots.  We soaked the already cooked turkey in chicken broth to keep it moist, and piled it into all of the counter top roasters on low.  Turkey gravy was put into crock pots and the oven was loaded with tinfoil trays of mashed potatoes, the stovetop contained huge pots of corn nibblets.  We were very fortunate to have parents at our school who happen to own a resort, Cheri and Casey Trudeau generously loaned out chaffing dishes and fuel.  That meant that all of the kids would not just have a home cooked meal, they would have a warm home cooked meal.  It also bears mentioning that one of our Mom's has an uncle who owns a bread truck, he generously donated enough rolls for each of the children and school staff, WOW.

    At 11:20 all of our food was loaded into the chaffing dishes.  The veggies were all cut and plated, rolls ready, cookies plated.  The tables were all set, we were ready.  All that we needed now was our first group of kids.  We stood at our posts eagerly awaiting the crowds.

Does this Santa's Helper look familiar?
    I was so excited to see all of those happy little faces, but most of all I was nearly beside myself anticipating the looks on those little faces when they saw our special guest.  I had the red fuzzy suit all laid out in the staff room waiting for our guest of honour.  The night before it looked like Santa might be a 6 foot 4 gentleman who looked like Mrs. Claus had shrunk his suit.  Luckily we had a different volunteer (I'm not naming names, but they may have loaned out chaffing dishes.  Santa really looked young).
    At 11:35 our first diners entered the gym.  They were so excited.  I stood there with this really stupid grin on my face.  I'm not sure who was more excited, them or me (I'm leaning towards me).  It was beautiful to see that the grade 7's and 8's had been paired with the junior and senior kindergartners.  The big kids looked like they felt very important, holding their little buddies hand.  They were really wonderful with their little ones.  The little one's looked up at their great big helpers with looks of something akin to hero worship. There were pleases and thank yous and yes pleases.   There were so many shining happy little faces.

    After the kids had all been seated, our principal made an announcement to the students "We are expecting a special guest".  In walked Santa.  The little ones were over the top with their excitement.  Santa walked around talking to all of the kids and offering cookies.  There was an almost electric feeling of joy in the air.  I will admit to having teary eyes.

    It was hours of work in the planning and cooking, but it was worth every single second.  I looked at my fellow volunteers and their faces looked the way my face felt.  We all felt this joy.  There was one older girl who I know does not have as much, she was physically shaking with excitement as I served her meal.  There is a very good chance that this was this young girls only opportunity to take part in a feast that most of us take for granted.  She told me without ever saying a word what a good thing we had done on that day.

    There is a Christmas spirit, you just have to give of yourself to feel it, to open your heart to it.  We gave our time, but those children filled my heart with joy and purpose.  It was such a beautiful day!

    Thank you to everyone 
who made this wonderful day happen!

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