Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas and a Farley Oasis

I had a pretty impressive pity party the other day. I felt overworked and underappreciated. The baby was sick. The house was dirty. I had no money to shop and was hungry for food that was only found outside of my home. I sat and whined about my lot in life until a friend sent me a video of Pebbles and Bam Bam singing “Let the Sun Shine in.” I was immediately transported, by some magical means, back to being a fourth grader at Farley Elementary. I was thinking about shared memories and how about 100 thirty-something adults all remember sitting in the AV room floor watching “Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas.” The movie is based on a book by Russell Hoban and turned into a cinematic marvel by Jim Henson in 1977. It’s basically The Gift of the Magi with, you know, otters. The thing that got to me is it didn’t matter what our personal stories were; I’m sure that some were dealing with poverty, a parent’s alcoholism, abuse, or divorce, but for that hour worry was left behind while we watched Emmet and his band sing about Bar-B-Que. I am now 37 and I think back to that hundred or so kids that have the exact same memory. The TV being rolled down the hall on the large metal cart and the moment of joy when you heard a teacher whisper AV room; these are little moments that connect a group of people who are now spread far apart.

Farley is now (sometimes) considered on the wrong side of the tracks, but for me it is a place where I played outside in a tree house built from old scrap wood. The neighborhood kids piled into the rickety structure and had palms full of tiny splinters for weeks during the summers. In the fall and spring our neighborhoods would flood and we would wade and play in the muddy water. Crawdads burrowed into holes and kids equipped with buckets and sticks would go in after them. The neighborhood smelled damp and raw, and when the flooding was at its worst, kids would play in lakes that were once grassy fields. The greatest part of our neighborhood was the “dirt hills” directly next to our house. When we moved there in my fourth grade year the hills appeared huge to me and I pretended they were Indian burial grounds. I raced them and became a BMX biker. My Dorothy Hamill bowl cut blowing behind me while I pretended I was something that I was not. “After Stand by Me” was released I told everyone I had found the body of a dead child and we walked through the woods looking for the unfortunate child and searching for clues of the mythical crime. It was in Farley that I French kissed a boy and moved banana bubble gum between our open lips.

When seventh grade rolled around it was a new world for everyone. Farley and Reidland joined, everyone mixed together, but there was a division that may have only been noticeable to those on the Farley side. No longer were we the same kids who stood outside on registration day praying to God that Ms. Myers was not our sixth grade teacher because everyone knew she was mean and her dress was always six inches shorter in the back than the front. Some stayed and graduated from Reidland and went to different schools, but what really gets to me and brings a smile to my face is if you find a Farley person and say, “Hey, remember Emmet Otter and the AV room.” They will most likely reply, “Yeah, remember Mr. Goodbody and how creepy he was.” The Farley hundred or so grew up and lived their lives, some were successful and others were not, but in fourth grade for one hour, we all played on an even field.

Thank you Farley Elementary for giving us that shared memory.

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