Brown Bag Surprise: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Have you ever started something that brings you to such a different place at the end that you can almost not remember the beginning?  Such was the case with our December Brown Bag Surprise.  It began on an innocent day in December, near the beginning of Advent.

Brown Bag nativityBounce’s Destination Imagination team is committed to Community Service.  This commitment has led them to view every opportunity in the light of service, asking, “How can we take this experience, gift, opportunity, and turn it into a gift for others?”

Upon finding an unused case of 9 dozen teddy bears, our church donated them to Bounce, saying,

“We know you will find something to do with these teddy bears.  All we ask is that when you do, write an essay for the newsletter and let us know how you used these bears.”

It was just three weeks before Christmas; visions of sugarplums still danced in our heads.

brown bag design 1brown bag design 2

Bounce decided to create teddy bear gift bags.

Bounce’s Destination Imagination team is also his Book Club, which is also the Wonderland BookSavers: Inspired by Literature team, a group which has, since September, donated 2,000 children’s books to multiple charities.  Their gifts are inspired by the literature they read.

brown bag poetry reading groupDecember is Homeschool Happymess Poetry Month.  Bounce and the Wonderland BookSavers were studying poetry.  They memorized the wonderful Lewis Carroll poem, Your Are Old Father William, from Alice-in-Wonderland.  They selected favorite poems and practiced their recitation skills, proclaiming their love of rhythm, rhyme and alliteration from the tops of ladders, the schoolroom reading loft, and the tops of bookcases.

Bounce chose his favorite:  The Bells by Edgar Allen Poe.  We had no idea how apt would be that choice.

Hear the sledges with the bells,

            Silver bells!

What a world of merriment their melody foretells!

How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,

            In the icy air of night!

While the stars, that oversprinkle

All the heavens, seem to twinkle

            With a crystalline delight;

Keeping time, time, time,

In a sort of Runic rhyme

To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells

From the bells, bells, bells, bells,

            Bells, bells, bells-

From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

What would a gift bag be without a book of poetry?  Bounce found a wonderful, inexpensive, collection of poetry from Dover Thrift publishers.

Brown Bag poem book

We ordered 9 dozen books to go with the bears.

brown bag design 6And the Bears ‘n Books package was born.

brown bag design 3brown bag design 4brown bag design 5brown bag design 7Bounce knew that wrapped gifts were not allowed, and so he and his friends and siblings set about making the most elaborate brown bag designs they could imagine.

brown bag book boxes housebrown bag boxes in car Hear the mellow wedding bells,

            Golden bells!

What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!

Through the balmy air of night

How they ring out their delight!

From the molten golden notes,

And all in time,

What a liquid ditty floats

To the turtle-dove that listens while she gloats

            On the moon!

Oh, from out the sounding cells,

What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!

            How it swells!

            How it dwells

On the Future! How it tells

Of the rapture that impels

To the swinging and the ringing

Of the bells, bells, bells,

Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,

            Bells, bells, bells-

To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

After 10 days of hard work the bears were ready for Christmas delivery.  We drove them down to the police station where Christmas gifts where being donated for local children.

brown bag bounce wth policeHere the story took an unexpected turn.

Hear the loud alarm bells,

            Brazen bells!

What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!

In the startled ear of night

How they scream out their affright!

Too much horrified to speak,

They can only shriek, shriek,

            Out of tune,

In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,

In a mad expostulation in a deaf and frantic fire,

            Leaping higher, higher, higher,

            With a desperate desire,

And a resolute endeavor

Now-now to sit or never,

By the side of the pale-faced moon,

Oh the bells, bells, bells!

What a tale their terror tells

            Of Despair!

While making these bear packages, a terrible tragedy occurred:  Newtown.  We were so stunned and saddened by this that for days our homeschool ceased activities and we simply prayed for the children and families of Newtown.  Like many in our community, our grief was too great to describe.

Now the police asked Bounce if he would be willing to donate his bear care packages to the children of Newtown.  They wanted to have gifts to give to the children when they returned to school.

brown bag bounce with state trooperAt 9:00 at night, when the town was quiet, except for a steady stream of mourners, Bounce was taken on a police escort tour of the many memorials of Newtown.

brown bag memorialbrown bag in our heartsbrown bag stay strongbrown bag picket fenceBounce left a Children’s Illustrated Bible at the picket fence, in hopes that prayers would bring some peace to this misery.

How they clang, and clash, and roar!

What a horror they outpour

On the bosom of the palpitating air!

Yet the ear it fully knows,

            By the twanging

            And the clanging,

How the danger ebbs and flows;

Yet the ear distinctly tells,

            In the jangling

            And the wrangling,

How the danger sinks and swells.

By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells,

            Of the bells,

Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,

            Bells, bells, bells-

In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!

We know that it will be a long time before peace returns to the community of Newtown.  We respect their efforts to put forth a message of peace and love throughout this terrible ordeal.  As we travel on the highway we are most impressed by an enormous sign reading, “We Are Sandy Hook; We Choose Love.”

Hear the tolling of the bells.

            Iron bells!

What a world of solemn thought their melody compels!

            In the silence of the night

            How we shiver with affright,

At the melancholy menace of their tone!

For every sound that floats

From the rust within their throats

            Is a groan,

And the people-ah, the people,

They that dwell up in the steeple,

            All alone,

And who tolling, tolling, tolling,

In that muffled monotone,

Feel a glory in so rolling

On the human heart a stone-

They are neither man nor woman,

            They are Ghouls:

And their king it is who tolls;

And he rolls, rolls, rolls,

            Rolls,

A paen from the bells;

And his merry bosom swells

With the paen of the bells,

And he dances and he yells:

Keeping time, time, time,

In a sort of Runic rhyme,

To the throbbing of the bells,

Of the bells, bells, bells-

To the sobbing of the bells;

Keeping time, time, time,

As he knells, knells, knells,

In a happy Runic-rhyme,

To the rolling of the bells,

To the bells, bells, bells:

To the tolling of the bells,

Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,

            Bells, bells, bells-

To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

And so, yesterday, the police asked Bounce to donate his bears to a neighboring school in Newtown, one that has hosted many Newtown funerals, St. Rose of Lima.

Brown Bag school signThe Wonderland BookSavers were asked to speak at the school’s Friday Mass.

brown bag churchThey brought a message of love and solidarity, saying, “We want you to know that children all around the country are praying for you.”

They recited cheerful poems.  Bounce read a poem about a squirrel.

Whisky, frisky,

Hippity hop;

Up he goes

To the tree top!

Whirly, twirly

Round and round,

Down he scampers

To the ground.

 

Furly, curly,

What a tail!

Tall as a feather

Broad as a sail!

 

Where’s his supper?

In the shell,

Snappity, crackity,

Out it fell

 

The girls did a dual recitation of You Are Old Father William.

 

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said.

“And your hair has become very white; and yet you incessantly stand on your head.

Do you think at your age it is right?”

 

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son, “I feared it might injure the brain. 

But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,

Why I do it again, and again”

 

“You are old,” said the youth, “as I mentioned before,

And have grown most uncommonly fat;

Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door,

Pray, what is the reason for that?”

 

“In my youth,” said the man, as he shook his gray locks,

“I kept all my limbs very supple.

 By the use of this ointment,  One shilling the box.

 Allow me to sell you a couple.”

 

“You are old,” said the youth, “and your jaws are too weak

For anything tougher than suet;

Yet you finished the goose with the bones and the beak-

Pray, how did you manage to do it?”

 

“In my youth,” said his father, “I took to the law,

And argued each case with my wife;

And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,

Has lasted the rest of my life.”

 

“You are old,” said the youth, “one would hardly suppose

That your eye was as steady as ever;

Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose-

What made you so awfully clever?”

 

“I have answered three questions and that is enough,”

Said his father, “Don’t give yourself airs!

Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?

Be off, or I’ll kick you downstairs!”

Brown Bag Old w:eel

St. Rose students thanked the Wonderland BookSavers with a standing ovation.

Wonderland BookSavers asked the St Rose children to join them in their quest to gather children’s books to donate to a library in Appalachia.  The St. Rose children were eager to help.  This week Wonderland BookSavers will bring boxes and posters for a book-drive to St. Rose, and a new collaboration will be born.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.  John Donne

Let Me Count the Days:  Homeschooling is living our commitment to the global community.  Love thy neighbor as thy self.

2 Responses

  1. so late to leave this but I think it’s your most beautiful/creative post yet.
    and we continue to pray………..

    • Dena,
      It is never too late…for those poor families directly involved, they will be living with this everyday. We are still praying for them, my heart breaks just thinking about their loss.This was a very difficult post to write but I felt I just couldn’t go blogging on and on without mentioning this close-to-home tragedy.
      Allia

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