That’s the end of an era. Two boys at school. Thomas is no longer a pre-schooler; had his school orientation day yesterday, December 6. He doesn’t start officially until February, but he went along for the morning, wearing William’s spare uniform. He had been looking forward to it for weeks.
He will be fine at school with the luxury of a brother one class ahead. William was the pioneer, his first weeks at school starting with a huge smile of goodbye at the gate masking wet eyes.
We stayed for the principal’s address and walked away and left Thomas around ten o’clock. The morning peak had died and the streets were empty and quiet. Then the church bell tolled, and the sound rumbled across the suburb. Perhaps it was for St Nicholas’ Day. I don’t know. Perhaps they rang it for the new Preps on their orientation morning. Perhaps they were just practising; the bell is being converted to electric operation following restoration of the church after the 2008 fire.
I told the boys the story of St Nicholas, a somewhat toned-down version from the grand guignol original I read about when I was child. William and Thomas, as I have mentioned in the past, do not believe in Father Christmas. This lack of faith was greeted with some consternation in certain quarters a couple of years ago; a consternation nipped in the bud by the terse observation that it would be an absurdity if a western world increasingly sceptical of religious belief were to insist that children have faith in the existence of a fat man who lived in the North Pole and travelled the world in a snow sled. A snow sled? In Australia? Ridiculous.
St Nicholas was the model for the original Santa Claus, I told them. If you say ‘St Nicholas’ over and over again very fast, the words will turn into ‘Santa Claus’, I said. They walked around repeating ‘St Nicholas’ for the rest of the afternoon. I didn’t tell them from what St Nick was reputed to have saved the children or resurrected those whose fate had already befallen them. I just told them he fed them in a famine. ‘Did he feed them lamb cutlets?’ Tom asked. ‘Hmmm,’ I replied, inwardly wincing, if that is possible. ‘I’m not sure: whatever was around at the time, I suppose.’
We celebrated Tom's first morning at school with lunch at C-Culture, previously reviewed here. The same old lady was eating soup, a barramundi was in the tank, and the real estate agents were there again. But I didn't order chicken's feet.