Vacance de Noel is finally here and not a moment too soon. I had only just put my novel's latest draft to bed when the call came: one of the teaching assistants at the school was sick, could I come in? Eager to put my shiny new work permit to the test, I was quick to accept. I would have to do lunch duty a few times, would that be a problem? Pshaw! I thought. Bring it on.
I have since come to the conclusion that there is a special place in heaven for lunch ladies. Strive as I might, I cannot recall the faces let alone the names of the martyrs who, year after year, paced the cafeterias of my youth. Of course, back then, I'm fairly certain none of my buddies carried anaphylactic shock kits with them, or if they did, they kept their secret well hidden.
I had just finished passing out the hot lunch plates--hamburgers on sesame seed buns--when a young girl ran up to me. She had swallowed a sesame seed that her table mate had flicked in her direction. Already her lips were tingling and turning red. She guided me to the box where her anti-histamines were kept. I watched as she counted eight drops from the bottle onto a spoon, then swallowed them. I hovered, waiting for them to kick in, all the while declaring an official cease fire in the battle of the buns. In the end, all went well. The drops had done their job and an all-out hamburger war had been averted. Day one of lunch duty was over. Two weeks later it's safe to say I may never enjoy this aspect of the job. There was bound to be one.
The girls are beside themselves with anticipation: euphoric one minute and miserable the next. I've had to wake them for school every day for the past three weeks. Given their normal tendency to wake earlier than your average rooster, this behavioural shift is indeed remarkable. Emma the Brave charges down each morning to devour her advent chocolate. Mouse is, for the most part, saving her chocolate squares for Christmas morning. Emma's warned her that eating that much chocolate at once will amount to a big tummy ache. Mouse is not concerned.
Geneva is poised on the brink of yet another Christmas. Lights, however understated, are strung up. Restaurants are serving vin chaud and small wooden shacks have sprouted on street corners selling roasted chestnuts or marrons. The grocery stores are stocked with mounds of shellfish and are accepting orders for Christmas turkeys--fresh never frozen. There are sweet potatoes and cranberries for us North Americans who can't go without. Platters of dried fruit sit wrapped and ready for giving. In the midst of all this hoopla it's easy to forget what this celebration is about: a long time ago there lived a man who dreamed of peace.
Wishing a happy, healthy holiday season to you and yours!
May peace be with you,