fuss: Winter Solstice

Thursday evening was the Winter Solstice celebration at Fuss' school, a marionette play acted out by the teachers followed by a lantern walk through a spiral labyrinth of woven pine branches.
We attended as a household- Fuss, the Wife, myself & Meek.

For all his contrarian willfulness Fuss has a very definite respect for ceremony and tradition.
While families were still arriving kids were swarming around the playground.  He wanted me to walk the spiral with him, noting that it looked like the labyrinth by the bay.  As we exited a bunch of the older boys stormed through, yelling and carrying on and earning the approbation of a nearby teacher.  Fuss stared at them and asked me "Dada, why are they DOING that?"

Eventually we all gathered in "the Graders" classroom for the older children, where the teachers had fashioned a simple stage lit with an array of gooseneck table lamps for the staff production of The Cobbler & the Elves.  Miss Kim opened the ceremonies asking that no pictures or video be taken, noting "this is a gift from our school to you, a Christmas memory."

The play was entrancing, homemade marionettes fashioned from scarves, thread & cotton batting. Teacher Anna narrated while Miss Kim and another lady animated the puppets.  The high point for the children were the Elves, who first appeared as manic shadows behind a silk scrim, cavorting with gleeful life as they made shoes for the beset cobbler, emerging for the finale in the news shoes and fine set of clothing provided by the grateful recipients of their bounty.

There's magic in bringing a story to life with such simple implements- cloth, thread, a handful of desk lamps & and a few sticks of doll furniture. While our mass entertainments howl and claw for viewer engagement with ever increasing spectacle, it's simultaneously comforting and inspiring to share the connection of a simple puppet show with a room full of families.

After, we ventured out from the dim, warm classroom into a frigid moonless night.  The children collected their paper lanterns from the benches.  A pathway of light arced across the lawn to entrance of the small labyrinth,  paper illuminated by tea lights nesting in sand.  At the center of the labyrinth burned a candle in a glass chimney attended by a teacher, behind her at the outer edge two parents played traditionals of the season on flute & guitar.

The older children bore unlit candles to the center, fired them and retraced their steps, setting down their candles at intervals to illuminate the path for their younger schoolmates.  It couldn't be rushed and by the time families of younger children started filtering down the path the crowd was restively rubbing hands and stomping feet.  Families proceeded inward to the source of fire, which passed to their child's paper lantern to be carried back out into the world.

When at last our turn came Fuss solemnly walked us inward, lit his lantern then led the procession back through the spiral and still further back between the gold lit pillars, stepping carefully in his too big winter coat one small foot in front of the other, holding up his lantern to show us the way.

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