How many of these have we hosted? Ten? Twelve? Fifteen? The annual holiday party that has erupted in our living room for all these years happened once again on the last day of school for the calendar year, and these are some of the things that happened: Teachers gathered and started talking about students. Teachers talked about report cards that didn't get handed out because parents missed their assigned conference times. Teachers talked about how glad they were to have a couple of weeks to drift away from the day-to-day crush of expectations and joys and miseries of elementary education. Cocktails were served. There were children present. And dogs. Decorum was maintained, for the most part. Right up until the White Elephant Gift Exchange. There was a mix of practical packages of comfy blankets and ten-in-one game sets that were sprinkled lightly over the adult beverages that came in bottle sized bags and boxes. While drinking was not the primary reason for the gathering, the selection of potential presents under the tree presented a quiet subtext.
We were the survivors. We had made the trip, one more time, from late August to mid-December and we were still standing. We came together to send one another off into the holiday void with the grim understanding that it would start all over again in just a couple of weeks. We all carried with us the voice of not-so-quiet reason, the woman who runs our cafeteria, "You're gonna wake up in two weeks and it'll be like it never happened."
Which had the effect of making me think back on the last decade-plus of Holly Daze hosted at our house for wayward school employees and their families and pets. I tried to remember everyone who had made their way into my living room for the decompression that comes with Christmas Break. I tried to recall all the times we spent in front of the Karaoke screen, searching for something we could all agree was the perfect song for a group of teachers to sing at the top of their lungs when they were finally allowed to. There were those who preferred Salt 'n' Pepa to my suggestion of Styx's "Come Sail Away," but it was never taken completely seriously. There was a crew we had seven or eight years ago who would keep the ball rolling until well past our normal bedtimes. These days, there is still enough energy left in all of us to clean the kitchen before we turn in. We still have our newbies, the ones fresh out of teacher school who know how to keep up with the veterans, but they have kids who need to go home and get ready for the rest of their vacation. And we have a son who will now sit down and have a beer with our guests when he used to hide in the back room, only coming out to get a plate of food and then retreat to the relative safety of the TV and video games. He now prefers the company of adults, since he is a nascent one.
In another ten years we could have a greatest hits gathering on the occasion of my pending retirement. Get all those characters out of the past and bring them back in front of the Karaoke player one more time. Before we wake up and it's like it never happened.