|Trying to Get Home (M.A. Reilly, 2011)|
Every Labor Day weekend during a three-day neighborhood clam bake, Patty, Jeannie and I would perform a singing and dancing show for those in attendance. The neighborhood parents and all of the kids came to the clam bake, as did most of my Da's and Mom's sisters and our Aunt Alice from Jamaica Heights. The party was held at the Schroeder's, our next store neighbor. Just a small spit of lawn rested between us and them. Every bed in our house was claimed by Thursday night and my brothers and I slept in sleeping bags on the side porch those long weekends or at other people's homes. Patty, Jeannie and I performed shows for about 5 years, usually on Saturday night after it got nearly dark and the fireflies were out. It was here in the close of what constituted summer that I learned how content was a made thing.
The year we were The Supremes, Mary who was Jeannie and Pat's older sister showed us how to roll our overly long hair around beer cans so our hair would be straight and have volume. Another year, Mary showed us how to iron each other's hair. We dutifully flipped our hair on to an ironing board and one of us covered the hair with a bath towel, while the other moved the heated iron back and forth on the towel. We usually slept at one of our homes during the weekend party and that year on the night before we were The Supremes we did so with our hair wrapped around beer cans. There was no sacrifice too dear.
Two weeks before the clambake, we would get busy and determine what songs to sing, what hats and other costumes to wear, and generally we scoped out how the performance would go. Everything was made by hand, gathered by what was around. One year we made microphones out of juice cans that we covered with foil. Another year we wore matching mini dresses made from pilfered white pillow cases and twine. We were bricoleurs well before we knew the term.
Stop! In the name of love...
The week before, we mostly argued about who got to be Diana and who had to play back up. There was little democracy to these discussions. Jeannie, being the oldest, mostly got her way. Pat and I were destined to play backup. We practiced in the unfinished basement of my home so that we could keep the performance theme a big secret. We did paint signs advertising the show, usually on large pieces of cardboard--the left over remnants of neighborhood appliance deliveries. We nailed these to trees throughout the neighborhood. It felt as if we had endless time to make the show as our obligations were simple chores we usually finished by early morning. Other then nightly calls for dinner, most of the day was ours.
Ooh, Baby love...
In looking back, I'm pretty sure few actually watched our shows as the party was well under way and our parents and aunts and older cousins were most often too deep in their cups to notice much. But nothing derailed the show and there was applause peppered at appropriate times and surely we felt like stars performing below the Schroeder's deck with all the lights lit, singing into orange juice cans, and dancing sort of in sync in our pillow case dresses.
Back in My Arms Again...
Nothing has held me in as good a stead as what I learned about making and authoring when I was a kid. Those summer shows showed me that content was not something given, or looked up to regurgitate. No, content was mostly what got made among others.
This is how I think about curriculum and content today. I understand curriculum as complicated conversation (Pinar, 1971) and content is what gets made prior to, during, and after those conversations.
I've written a lot about this in other posts. Here are a few:
A Simple Curriculum Framework To Hold Us in Good Stead (11.19.14)
Disassemble, Reassemble: Some Notes About Curriculum and Improvisation (6.19.14)
Six Thoughts about Curriculum (3.19.11)
Curriculum as Complicated Conversation (3.31.11)