Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day 2008

There is nothing like opening presents, especially when there are fewer of them and they all are perfect. Here, based on my performance with a beautiful delicate ornament that Lauren gave me last week, Leroy is holding the delicate object as he pulls it up out of its packing.

It is a "peaches and peony" Chinese vase from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, from my sister Mary and her husband Paul.

Here James examines his big present from Leroy and I this year: all eight volumes of the collected papers of Charles Sanders Pierce, plus a biography of Pierce, collected meticulously online by Leroy for James from many used bookstores or collectors.

Here Leroy and James are looking at a biography of the great naturalist John Muir which James got for Leroy.

My most remarkable present today was an email from the high school teacher who taught me literature, the classics, trumpet and voice. I had mentioned Mr. Larson in a profile which my home town paper did of me recently. Mr. Larson made such an impact on those he taught --not only fiction or poetry or plays, but he read us short stories by Thurber, Mencken, and Hemingway. He put up with requests from our girls' sextet to arrange songs like "To Know Know Know Him is to Love Love Love Him." And he offered an after-school classics seminar to a few of us who were interested. He conducted the band and the chorus, and once or twice a year he and his glamorous wife Lucille (also a teacher) sang duets at the end of a concert. Like my husband, he was truly a renaissance man who did many things well. Mr. Larson had a profound influence on me, which led to two degrees in literature.

I have not heard from Mr. Larson since I left high school, over 40 years ago. His email today took me back to the classroom and the sound of his voice reading to us about a world we had only begun to understand. I remember now why I might have had something to do with his reading aloud.
Way back when, someone left a note on my desk: "It is the custom on rainy days to read stories to the class." You, for one, are unforgettable. Thank you so much for your recent remembrance of me.

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