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Grey Matters, November 25, 2013; Volume 2, Number 13 - Thanksgiving Edition

posted Nov 24, 2013, 7:11 AM by Andrew Shen   [ updated Jun 26, 2014, 11:14 AM by James Marcotte ]

While directing morning traffic last week, I started to take an informal tally of students who are still wearing shorts, and got shivers last week from just looking at them. Is there something biological about puberty that shields them from feeling cold temperatures?  I, on the other hand, am seriously considering wearing one of those sleeved fleece blankets - “snuggies” I believe they are called - to keep warm in the morning.  

The Fall Trimester closed last week, and teachers will be submitting grades this week.  When we return from Thanksgiving Break, we’ll be preparing to send report cards home with the students, so stay tuned for updates on that.  Marcia Charter is also working on sorting the many conference requests we have received, thanks for your patience as she begins to schedule those appointments. 

Our RJ GREY yearbooks are on sale starting today - Monday, November 25, and will continue to be sold through Friday, December 20th.  If you or your child wants to receive one in June, you/they must order a book by the December 20th deadline.  This year, there are two ways to order: 

Online:          Go to

                          Enter our school code of 13545

                         Pay by credit card

                         Save your email receipt for record purposes

At school:            Fill out the order form your child will bring home this week, and send it in with check or cash to 

                                our main office (ideally in an envelope, please), Attn: Vicki Weeks

The RJ Grey yearbook is a beautifully designed hardcover book with color photos that commemorates a student’s time at RJ Grey.  We want every family to feel comfortable with ordering a yearbook (especially for 8th grade students), so please don’t hesitate to contact us if the cost of the yearbook presents a hardship for your family.  This is important to us and we can easily, and discretely, work with you to make a yearbook available for your student.  Feel free to contact me or Jim Marcotte ( if you have any questions about this.   

Finally, this is a shortened week, with an early release on Wednesday (11:00 dismissal).  On that day, we will have our annual Thanksgiving Assembly.  This assembly traditionally includes a few speeches by students, and performances by the school band and chorus.  Preparing for this assembly last year prompted me to think about my own Thanksgiving experiences when I was a middle school-aged student. I shared some of those memories in last year’s pre-Thanksgiving edition of Grey Matters, and I was asked to repost pieces of it this year, so some of you may notice that I embedded (or flat out copied and pasted) some of those same memories into this year’s “Thanksgiving Edition”.  

When I was younger, Thanksgiving had very little to do with extended family, as most of our relatives were a few thousand miles away.  For my sister and I, Thanksgiving dinner was an event celebrated with just our parents, so it often felt like a lot of work for just another Thursday night dinner.  Growing up in Taiwan, my parents didn’t experience Thanksgiving until they moved here for graduate school, and along with preparing the “traditional” turkey and sides, my parents wanted to include items more familiar to them.  As a result, we had many a Thanksgiving dinner where, next to the mashed potatoes, sat a plate full of pork dumplings; and next to the canned cranberry sauce, there was a bowl filled with a rice dish prepared by my dad. 

When I was thirteen, having soy sauce and turkey gravy on the same table bothered me, mostly because it was different from what I understood and assumed to be the proper and traditional way to celebrate this holiday, based on what I learned in school and saw on television (or in today’s world, seeing mouth-watering Thanksgiving links like this one -prepare to salivate if you visit the site).  For me, it meant we weren’t fitting in and continued to make us different at a time when I wanted to be anything but.  This narrow obsession of mine also probably contributed to an inexplicable lifelong craving for Stouffer’s Stove Top stuffing and a preference for canned cranberry sauce.  Once that adolescent desire to fit in faded, I began to appreciate those dinners through a different lens - one that focused on the reality  that the food my parents made was really good, that we had much to be thankful for (including, but not limited to, a table that was always filled with food), and that every family has different twists on how celebrate Thanksgiving - and it’s those unique twists that are at the heart of any tradition. 

As I got older, I also came to discover that our approach to Thanksgiving was definitely more manageable than some of the other family “traditions” I have now heard about from friends and colleagues, and have myself witnessed when spending time with my wife’s extended family.  Little did I realize how fortunate the Shen family was to not have to wrestle with deciding which relative slept in what room during the holiday, who was in charge of making sure Uncle X  didn’t upset Cousin Q with his politics, and preparing for however much criticism (also known as “advice”) one was to receive from his or her mother-in-law for the entire day (and night, and potentially the following morning).  If the above sounds familiar to you, PBS Newshour just published online a lighthearted “holiday civility placemat” where two contributors - David Brooks and Mark Shields - provide advice for how to “keep the peace” during these extended family gatherings.  You can read the article and print out the placemat by clicking here.  

Whatever twist you and your family have planned for your Thanksgiving break, and whatever you plan to eat, I hope you all find some opportunity for a little rest and some good company.  We look forward to seeing everyone back next Monday.  

Have a great week, everyone.