Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Chapter Forty-Five

It isn’t long before the women come back with the list of the children’s names, grades, and the resources in their homes. Sissy sets to work trying to work out a lesson plan. Of the families that want to be part of the neighborhood correspondence school, there are 6 kindergartners, 7 first graders, 4 second graders, 2 third graders, 5 fourth graders, 1 fifth grader, 7 sixth graders, 5 seventh graders, 10 eighth graders, 9 ninth graders, 4 tenth graders, 3 eleventh graders, and 3 twelfth graders. This makes a total of sixty-seven kids in nineteen households. She is going to have the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders tell her what they want to study. She will let this be her guide to facilitate their lessons. The ninth graders she will assign mostly entry level highschool work and let them pick some electives for their own self-directed study that they can keep a journal on. The middle schoolers will all share science, history, geography, and literature lessons; she will have separate language arts and math lessons for each grade. She will assign the elementary students the same lessons but with level appropriate requirements. Good thing she kept all of her lesson plan books from over the years.

Science, history, and literature are easy; there will be lots of hands-on, grade appropriate projects. They will all also keep a nature and observation journal similar to the concept that can be found in the Charlotte Mason approach to education. For part of language arts, she will suggest that each student keep a daily journal. Sometimes she will give them writing prompts for topics, at other times they can chose their own. With luck this will also help the kids express their concerns and fears as they live during a pandemic rather than keeping them bottled up to deal with later. Math is going to be a challenge for some of the parents to teach, but Sissy has enough step-by-step instruction manuals that if applied with a little patience, everyone should be learning enough without too much frustration. Luckily, most families have copies of some of the classics. For the first few weeks, she is going to do a unit study on The Swiss Family Robinson or Robinson Crusoe. Every grade will participate and she will be able to tie in some projects quite easily.

In fact, Sissy has too many ideas. She hasn’t figured out how she is going to get every one’s assignments out to them. They still have a good supply of printer toner for now as she and Scott had really stocked up for the business. They have about six cases of paper that Scott had taken in trade from one of his jobs. Sissy figures that maybe they will continue with the idea of a correspondence school and she can set up a series of mailboxes over at the neighborhood market lot. To save time and paper, she will send out an entire week’s worth of lessons at a time. It will be up to the parents to collect the lessons and implement them in their own home. At the end of the week she will ask for feedback from parents and kids and see how things are working out. Heck, she figures she can’t do worse than the kids not getting any instructional education at all, and she can at least make an attempt to keep things fun and interesting.

Setting this up has certainly given her something to keep her mind off counting the minutes until Scott returns home. He is due back any day and this is the longest they have ever been separated without at least talking to each other on the phone in 25 years of being together. It certainly has been emotionally challenging. It gives her a glimpse at what things would be like if one day he never came home.

Early the next morning as Sissy is taking some of the last of the containers back out into the backyard there is the sound of air breaks and the whooshing of a large truck pulling into their driveway. She runs around front and straight into Scott’s arms. All the kids heard the truck roll up and quickly come out to see their dad. Sissy also greets her brother and father.

"We gotta get this stuff unloaded so dad and I can get back on the road," her brother hastily breaks in as he begins unlocking the rear doors of the truck.

"You can’t stay at least to eat?" Sissy pleads.

"Sorry honey, but no. Your brother and I are going to haul this stuff down to Sarasota and then try and make it home before dark so that we don’t have to park and wait out the curfew. I’m missing your Momma real bad and need to get home to her," her dad puts in. "But if you’ve got anything we can eat on the go, I won’t turn you down."

Sissy sends the girls into the house to throw together a bag of food to go while she helps bring in bags and boxes of stuff. They’ve backed the rig all the way to the porch overhang, but its still work to get up in the trailer, get the stuff down the ramp, and then walk it into the house and find a place to set it down amidst all the other mess in the house. She is curious but keeps it at bay until her brother and dad pull away.

"What on earth is in all these bags? And are these figs and persimmons in these crates?" Sissy asks.

"Yep. Do I get a kiss?"

"You’ll get more than a kiss when the kids go to bed. Lordy, I’ve missed you. Don’t go away like that again," she implores.

"Well, as to that . . . "

"Oh no. When do you leave?" Sissy asks, crestfallen.

"Your brother is going to try and get back as soon as he does a couple of loads he has already contracted to do. Maybe about a week." Scott replies. To Sissy’s disgust he is obviously excited about taking off again.

"You going to Tennessee again?"

"No, just up to north Florida."

"What for?"

"There is a man up there that has promised to trade us a couple of head of beef, and some wild game, for some sugar. He is someone your dad met at the truck stop before we crossed the state line."

"But there is another wave of infections coming this way! Haven’t you all heard?"

"Yeah. That’s one of the reasons we are trying to get this done quick. Look, I’ve got to run over to Barry and Tom and see how things have gone. Then I need to go out and make a run. I know its late to start, but I just feel the need to keep going as quick as possible."

"You just got in!" she says upset. "OK, we’ll talk tonight. Please try and not be out too long."

"No longer than I have to be. Dig around in this stuff and see what you think."

And with that Scott is out the door again and running. "That’s what she gets for marrying a Type A," she grouses to herself.

Sissy goes over to start "digging around" as Scott suggested. She nearly swallows her teeth a few minutes later as she tries to take it all in. "And he left before I could give him a good solid kiss. Just wait until that man gets home," Sissy thinks to herself as she gazes in stupefaction at everything.

She calls to the kids for some help and begins to unpack a veritable gold mine. The burlap bags hold about a hundred pounds of pecans. She thought they were golf balls originally. She immediately makes plans to repackage them into some smaller containers. There are some smaller bags of almonds and walnuts in there too. And a bag of what looks like hickory nuts, but she isn’t sure as they aren’t labeled. If they are, it will be a Godsend because Tom told her how Native Americans used to make a shortening-like product from them called Hickory Milk.

There are crates of figs, persimmons, Muscadine grapes, and what had to be six bushels of Granny Smith apples. She lets the kids have one of those each and hopes they aren’t so green that they get a bellyache. That’s all they need on Scott’s first day back.

Small plastic drums hold sorghum molasses of all things. But, most incredibly, there are several fifty-pound bags of flour and the same of cornmeal. The bags are all labeled as being from the Hopkinsville Milling Co. so she knows that they got as far as her extended family’s area. She isn’t sure whether they got as far north as Paducah though, she didn’t had a chance to ask. She knows her dad would have tried to see his sister if he could have. There are also two fifty-pound bags of field corn. That will come in handy.

And, there look to be a couple of jugs of something that shouldn’t have been there. What in the world they need moonshine for she doesn’t know. If the men had been caught transporting that stuff across state lines there would have been hell to pay.

What a bounty! She is down to the dregs of her flour supply and here is more than she could have ever hoped for. If she plays things out right, this will last for months, definitely through the New Year anyway. "Oh, just wait until that man comes home," Sissy vows.

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