In this season of giving, we offer a little story from our Briar Rose Kindergarten teacher, Miss Barbara:
A very long time ago, when Miss Barbara was a little girl, perhaps as tall as (insert name of your child), she lived in a land far away by the name of Switzerland. She lived in an apartment building on the first floor to the right, with her Papa, named Grand-Papa Philip, her Mama, Marie-Theres, and her two sisters: Christa and Regula. They had no pets, but as you already know, there were plenty of animals in Miss Barbara’s life because Grand-Papa Philip worked at the farm next door. He was an animal doctor. (Here you may interrupt me and let me know that the profession is actually called veterinarian. A word I tend to avoid as I confuse the French pronunciation with the English one!). There were no cows, no horses and no pigs at the farm. There were only bulls. One hundred and three bulls to be exact.
One day before Christmas, just around the time when the night is the longest of the year, Grand-Papa Philip came to Miss Barbara. He said, “Miss Barbara, get your boots, your warm coat, your mittens, and your hat and come right along. I need your help at Monsieur Martin’s farm. His cow has a sore hoof and I would like you to lend me a hand while I do a little surgery. We don’t want her to hurt a minute longer.” Miss Barbara loved to help her Papa and so she did not dilly dally. Off they went together, in their little red car that had no seatbelts, as was the fashion in the olden days.
They drove for a long time, over the Chaumont mountain which was already covered in two feet of snow, to the Jura where the farm was.
The surgery went well. After it was done, it was Miss Barbara’s job to unroll the white bandage while Grand-Papa Philip wrapped it around the cow’s hoof. It looked very much like a giant roll of duct tape. The cow was relieved and bumped Grand-Papa gently with her muzzle (presumably to say thank you), while Monsieur Martin stood there beaming. He was relieved because sometimes in the olden days it was not so easy to get help quickly on a farm in the middle of nowhere.
Now it was time to go and Monsieur Martin wanted to know about the bill, but Grand-Papa Philip just said not to worry about it, it cost nothing that day. Monsieur Martin then insisted that we stay on for a snack of cheese and white wine (for the grown-ups). They proceeded to chat about the price of cattle, the health of the family, the rumors of the valley, and much more. While they talked, Miss Barbara got to look around the kitchen where there was a calendar with kittens on the wall and an old fashioned stove where you had to make a fire to cook. There were pots and ladles, and quite a few flies buzzing around. It smelled very strongly of cows and also of soap. Then finally, Grand-Papa shook the farmer’s hand again, thanked him, and told Miss Barbara to get ready to go.
That is when Monsieur Martin put up his hand and said, “Venez avec moi, Monsieur Bachmann, j’ai un petit cadeau pour votre famille.” Which means, come with me, I have a little present for your family. “Mais non, mais non, ce n’est vraiment pas nécessaire” (oh, no, really, this is not necessary) said Grand-Papa Philip. But Monsieur Martin insisted and so he showed them around the barn where he had stored… the most gorgeous, tallest, most enormous, gigantic, dark green Christmas tree you have ever seen. Miss Barbara’s eyes went as wide as two lollipops and so did Grand-Papa Philip’s. The tree was magnificent. Monsieur Martin, whose arms were very strong, lifted it up to show it to us in all it’s height and splendor. And tall it was: it reached way above Grand-Papa Phillip’s head, way above Monsieur Martin’s head, almost to the gutters of the barn. It’s lower branches were wide and oh so perfect for all the candles Marie-Theres was busy making at home.
And, Briar Rose, you will not believe this, but in no time the tree was attached with ropes to the tiny red car, which almost disappeared under the tree. Miss Barbara and her Papa crawled inside and luckily they could just peek out the windshield. The back window was covered in green branches as were the sides. Off they went over the snowy mountain, under their beautiful Christmas tree, so proud and happy to bring it home to Marie-Theres, Christa, and Regula. What a wonderful surprise!
We all remembered Monsieur Martin for a very long time. Even up to this day, in fact.
Gratitude, love, and duty, the values that my father lived by and that I was witness to, are the foundation of how we teach at Seattle Waldorf School. They guide my work with children every day. My father showed me how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude every day for all things.
Gratitude is the basis for love. To sow love, we shall work on the relationships we have the greatest struggles with. My father never turned away anyone who came across his path. He invited strangers into our house, fed them, or drove across mountains to help them. He never questioned that this is what he had to do; this was just “normal.” And he still does! Perhaps the best way to flex our “duty” muscles is by reaching out into the community and practicing kindness.
At Briar Rose we are busy forming relationships every day and it is really hard work. We draw books to show our gratitude to the “people who clean our classrooms at night,” we check in with our neighbors, we pay attention to all creatures big and small and save them occasionally, we appreciate the trees and the protection they bestow on us during our walks. The opportunities for being connected, caring, and grateful are endless!