After the last final is taken, the last 14 page paper turned in, the binders stashed away in boxes and the notebooks closed, it's time to celebrate! Last year, the end of the school year didn't mean as much to me, but we gathered at Jack Russell Brewery because it meant freedom for Joey and others. This year is a whole different ballgame. Not only did May 24 signify the end of my first semester teaching, as I painstakingly posted the last of the students' grades, but also Joey graduated with his BA from Sac State! He's moving on to grad school at Davis and a credentialing program. He's gonna be an English teacher just like his sis.
I asked Tootie what we should make his banner say and she said, "Here it comes!" She meant his party, but I liked that on all kinds of levels. So, Joey, here it comes!
The afternoon was cold and getting colder. We pulled sweatshirts from the crevices of the cars and got bundled for some fun. Even a sprinkling of rain didn't stop us, and we had the whole place to ourselves.
Nana used a glass of warm water to thaw her frozen fingers. This is May 24 we're talking about, people. California.
Everyone brought snacks and I brought the fixins for my favorite tempeh tacos and a chocolate cake. Chelsea and Shane bought me a cider to match the Octoberish vibe. Spirits were high.
Nick graduated from Sac State too!
Within about two days, the weather turned completely around and what we usually get much earlier in May arrived. That means one thing around here: our pool goes up! It was a long awaited day this year, with cooler nights and many May rainstorms, but the wait just made it all the more exciting.
This time Utah was here to join in on the fun. I have pictures of this event every year since Tootie was nine months old crawling around as the water filled the beloved pool.
Needless to say, we've basically lived in this pool for almost two weeks now.
And a couple days later, we may have inadvertently started another May tradition. Addie and I decided to take the kids on a train ride in Old Sacramento. After she bought the non-refundable tickets, we found out that our ride happened to fall on the same day as the Sacramento Jazz Fest. (Now known as the Sacramento Music Festival). At first we were crestfallen, thinking about how crazy parking would be and the crowds we might fight. But once we relaxed and decided to go early and enjoy the festival a little bit too, we actually had a blast!
I remember going to the Jazz Fest in junior high when I was lucky enough to be part of a spectacular concert band at Winston Churchill Middle School, which had a symphony as well. Arts funding was cut drastically over the next few years and I believe the school lost both these programs. In any case, I remember a seventh grade day trip, giddy on cute boys and root beer, sticky, wild and free, running around the wooden walkways of Old Sacramento and down to the river piers. It had a feeling of being out of time, with horns blowing their doleful tales and alleyways echoing with old timey tunes, men in tophats and suspenders, ladies in polka dot dresses, brass instruments being lifted from big velvet lined cases, spittle on the lips, the smell of spilled beer in grassy tents, stairways down to hidden doorways, music, flirting, music, boys.
We walked through the tunnel from the old Downtown Plaza. I hardly ever head down that way anymore and it was a shock how the Sacramento of my twenties has been obliterated. So long a fixture, the plaza is no more. It looked like a carcass under construction. But the colorful murals in the tunnel were the same, and Old Sac thankfully never changes!
A stellar middle school jazz band was playing right around the corner. The piano player was a small shy kid in glasses that knocked our socks off in his solos. The singer was a cute little gal with a big smile and a fresh voice that rang out the "Bear Necessities," and the kids went wild. Utah and Toot rushed right into the middle in a wild kicking dance party, and dragged Addie in too, while Polly and I sashayed on the sidelines.
Balloon twists and bubbles, and more jazz, while we wait for the train.
Here she comes!
We took the rounded booth at the end of the parlor car. The Sacramento Southern Railroad was built in the early 1900s to cover the fertile ground along the delta of the Sacramento River. During the depression, passenger service was stopped but freight continued for transport of fruits and veggies like pears, asparagus, beets, celery and seeds. The commemorative excursion train has now been running for 33 years! Our reconstructed first class car was air conditioned and we were cordially served snacks of our choice which made the children very proud. The conductor mentioned how pineapples were seen as symbols of wealth and hospitality in the 1920s, so the juice of the day was pineapple juice,
We learned that in the 1840s grizzly bears roamed plentifully in these California hills, and right here along the delta, but that by the late 1850s, they were almost gone.
"The purposeful extinction of California’s state emblem haunts our history. Over the past several centuries we have traded bears for cities and farms. Today California provides a home to nearly forty million people, huge acreages of productive farmland, and no wild grizzly bears. The bulls won."
- from the Sequoia Parks Foundation
Our train ride took us down along the Sacramento river, then we stopped briefly for the engine to change sides. We even wandered up to the observation deck to watch the powerful steam engine at work! We watched two giant expulsions of steam and sediment puff out the side of the engine during the boiler blowdown. On the observation deck, Polly sang out "chugga chugga chugga chugga" as the engine started to roll again.
Then this old-timer came through the parlor car offering entertainment, and performed a gold rush tune so catchy we started to hum along.
A trip to Old Sacramento would not be complete without an ice cream cone.
After a little more wandering, another walk through the tunnel, some grassy hill rolling, and another elevator ride, the kids were exhausted. We went to dinner at Old Spaghetti Factory on J street, and Polly had already fallen asleep. I carried her in and she stayed asleep; this never happens.
And the good times just continue to roll! The next week we had Joey's birthday party, we cared for a litter of kittens whose family was out of town and fell head over heels, I attended a poetry reading that Darin put on, and now tonight: a visit from our dear friend Ryann!