It’s November 1st, as I write this blog. I look out my window for the turning of the leaves. The leaves are late this year and may hold out until winter. The natural world around us is changing. Things we have long grown to expect are not occurring the way we expect them to. Autumn has come, but the spectacular colors have not. It has been unseasonably warm, we’ve had terrible storms. It leaves me with a feeling of uncertainty as I sit here preparing to write to you.
The one thing about November that has not changed for me is Thanksgiving. The rest of the commercial world is already celebrating Black Friday (that’s the sales day ‘traditionally” after Thanksgiving) and moving onto Christmas. We will be presented with Christmas music loops in the grocery stores and restaurants from now until New Years. Personally, I will struggle not to grind my teeth or my ax and smile politely while stuff my napkin in my ears. This is the month of Thanksgiving not Christmas or sales or spending money on people who for the most part don’t deserve much more than a lump of coal. I’ll have mine black and crispy.
Since you’ve made it to my point, here it is. This is Thanksgiving. A time when we, as one people. should put aside our differences and celebrate all the good things that America has given us. For better or worse, we are all Americans. I challenge all of you to be thankful to family, friends, ancestors, freedoms, homes, and the myriad of small things we all take for granted. It will be hard. There are many challenges and thorns in our paths
As the country struggles with elections, terrible pilgrim plays, turkey rights, whether mashed potatoes are acceptable without gravy. Stop, look around you and thank something or someone for the blessings you do have.
At the Museum, I am grateful for the following things and people:
· Incoming Donations. So many wonderful items have come in this year to help us share the great history of our school system and the incredible people it produced. The stories that come with them, told by a former teacher’s aide telling about that one student who told her that she wouldn’t have passed English without her help.
· Financial Donations. The willingness of donors to provide us with the means to continue our mission of preserving and sharing our pasts. We truly benefit from it every day. Listening to the man pause as he writes a check to adopt a case, to tell me how much his mother meant to everyone who came to her classroom. That without her years of service so many kids would not have made it. Years of strangers coming up in stores and on the street to tell him how much his mother had done for them.
· Volunteers like Cheryl Pratt who gave of her precious time to supervise newspaper clippings, joking and laughing with Ernie Murphy about life and the strange stories that crop up in the papers, before talking about that last Halls High School win over Fulton then asking me to buy more big purple glue sticks then turning to Horace Grissom to hand over their work for his approval before the pages are added to the appropriate history notebook.
· To Benna van Vuuren, our director, for creating this space (with lots of help) and giving us our mission to pursue. Without her, there would be no Museum. Making her coffee and Rusk as she begins her days going through the newspapers to pull those articles that pertain to educational history. Listening to her tell her favorite Mildred Doyle story as she sits at Miss Doyle’s famous desk. She part of this history that surrounds all of us.
· To the Newspapers of Knoxville who continue to publish articles featuring the Museum, keeping us in the public eye and interest. Please keep publishing the stories that fill our notebooks. Without your efforts, we’d be hard pressed for evidence that any of this ever happened. We could make claims, but it is your writing and photos that prove that any of it actually ever happened.
· To Knox County School System, for giving us the space to operate, for always backing up our crazy and sane ideas. For the staff, who have been so patient with us and even take their precious time to come see what we are up to. To Superintendent Thomas, without whom we’d be lost for space. To Kaye Good who has been our greatest supporter for years and the museum’s friend. To the Maintenance Department whose skills and willingness to work has moved the Museum twice and provided the beautiful workmanship of our hall displays.
· To the Schools we all went to and probably even graduated from. We are blessed with their histories and our small parts in them. Standing in the hallway, looking at the displays finding my mother’s picture there next to my father. The letter jacket he gave me when I was old enough. Getting lost in a memory before finding my picture in a High School annual, I was so young then, so very young.
And there is so much more, the teachers, the students, the former teachers and former students and all the visitors who come and those people who just wander in wondering what this strange and magical place in the Sarah Simpson building is. We look forward to your visits. Come by and have a free cup of coffee and experience the gratitude of Knoxville and our small slice of history of us all.