Saturday, September 20, 2014

Floyd the Chipmunk - the Story

Who is Floyd?

A student? A coworker? A boyfriend? 
No to all three! Floyd has been a very special part of my life ever since nine years ago in October. 

Was Floyd a real chipmunk? 
Yes he was! 

Did you run him over or something? 
Um...what? 

Y'know, that's why he's stuffed. 
That's just morbid, and totally Janitor-from-Scrubs-esque! And he was a little crazy! 

Okay, if that's not the story, then what is? 
If you insist, I will tell you! 

Long, long ago, I was a mere sophomore in college in New Ulm. My big brother had just graduated, leaving me as the alone on the hill. I had carry-over friends from MLS, and I'd made a couple more friends over the year, but I still hadn't found anyone who could really be my best friend. 

Then I was invited one night in the fall to a "Girls Night" by some girls down the hallway from me (and my roommate, who I'd barely talked to freshman year but someone suggested I room with her because she was really nice) - one of whom I knew from singing in the Honor Choir in 2002 at a Worship Conference. So I said yes. The Girls Night was a big success, and when the next one came up, I asked to bring a friend- someone who had been down the hall from me the previous year. 

As the Girls Nights continued, that girl I invited and the girl I'd known from before and my roommate stuck around, along with a girl I'd never talked to before. Eventually it was just us five doing these Girls Nights, and we almost preferred it that way. We got to know each other really well, and had lots of fun doing stuff that got us away from thinking about classes or boyfriends or breakups or trying to survive your first year of College Choir. 

One of my friends- the one I'd known since 2002- had done some summer nannying over in Colorado, and one Girls Night she was sharing her photos and stories with us. She pined to go back, and one of us (I can't remember who) said that we should take a road trip there sometime! After we determined that year was too busy, we saw that in our Junior Year, we had a four day October break! Perfect! 

Now I've fallen prey to one too many schemes for which I get my hopes up, only to realize I'd been putting my hope in something that would never actually happen. But lo and behold, this one actually started coming true! 

Hold on hold on. Is one of these friends named Floyd? Because you haven't mentioned him yet! 
I'm getting to it! Anyway... 

We organized a spiral notebook and thought of all the things we would need to do a vacation. Considering none of us had ever planned or booked a vacation before, I thought we did a pretty great job. We thought of everything our Dads (or Moms) would have thought to do, and made sure we got a hold of the supplies. 

The summer passed, and we were really excited for October to come. So excited, in fact, that we did a "test trip" the week before Labor Day, and camped out at Devil's Lake in Baraboo, Wisconsin. There was rain and cold water and a sprained ankle (was that this trip or next? I think it was this one), but we had fun. Now we were ignoring class even more as we waited for the first quarter to finally be over! 

The day finally came: October 19, 2005. We got out of classes, packed up Betsy (my '99 Plymouth Voyager, who reached 200,000+ miles thanks in part to this trip!), ate supper in the cafeteria (really bad food, since everyone was already gone and the caf didn't really care what the crap they served), and that evening took off for our all-night trip! 

You drove all night? Are you sure you didn't run Floyd over as you were driving at 4 a.m? 
What is with you and roadkill?! 

Yes, we drove all night, each of us taking a few hours at the wheel. For anyone curious, yes, Nebraska at night looks exactly like those postcards you can get. Pitch black and boring. The gas station we stopped at was completely closed up, but you could still get gas! I've never seen that before. 

I had the fourth shift, and did pretty well. I was still feeling good as we got into Colorado, but my nanny friend took over, because she'd just been there and knew where to go. And let me tell you, driving into Rocky Mountain National Park when the sun is rising is amazing! You get into the park, and no one else is there. It's just you and the huge herds of mule deer as the sun makes its appearance. 

So we got out, groggy and gross-looking, but we really wanted to make sure that we got to hike the mountains (or around the mountains, depending on which friend you were). It hadn't been that cold in Minnesota, but in the mountains it was chilly! We walked and took tons of pictures and I began my ongoing act-stupid-when-a-camera-is-on phase. Why? Because the girls loved it! I think they still do! And if they don't, they should probably tell me soon... 

We took our first break, and settled on some rocks to eat granola bars and have a devotion from the Meditations book (like we'd done at Devil's Lake). As we were eating and admiring not being in flatlands, a little chipmunk crawled up to where we were sitting. 

Let me guess: after wasting a huge portion of this note, we finally are talking about Floyd. 
For once, you're correct. 

The chipmunk looked a little different from chipmunks I'd seen in Michigan. For one, this guy was a lot bolder. You could tell he just wanted a bite of our granola bars. He was adorable, too! We made sure to take a picture of him. 

After we encountered him for about 5 minutes, we- 

Wait! That's it?! You met a little chipmunk for five minutes and you're whole life evolves around him? That's a little crazy. 
Well, it depends. You see, we were all at MLC to become teachers, and any chance to create a teaching moment is one that we could take. Although it didn't start as a teaching moment. 

We loved the chipmunk and named him Floyd during our trip. We decided to make him our Fantastic Five mascot (for that was our name- not the Fab Five our the Fantastic Four or anything like that). We thought we could find a little stuffed chipmunk as we went around Colorado- they have stuffed everything there! Right? 

...right? 

No! For the life of me, we couldn't find a little stuffed chipmunk ANYWHERE! And you know how long it took us to finally find the little thing? 

...two months? 

TWO YEARS! Every toy store, every gift shop, every garage sale we went to we were looking around, but it still took us TWO YEARS to finally find our little Floyd. 

So now, what to do with him? By 2007, three of us were about to graduate from four-year programs and get teaching calls. (Thank God- they all got calls!) So we decided to make him our little traveller. For a few weeks he would spend time in our classrooms and get to know our kids. The kids could draw pictures and stuff like that, and those things would get mailed on to the next teacher to share with her kids. Best of all, we could take him on all of our own trips, ones with the group and individual trips, too! 

One year alone, Floyd had been down to Mexico, up to the Mackinac Bridge, and even over to Italy! We take pictures and make him a little scrapbook to show the kids where he's been and what ancient building Floyd is "attacking" today. 

Even cooler is now we have created a "Floyd Box," which contains all his albums and papers from kids in other classes. When I showed the box to my kids, I had Mesa first and second graders deciding where Floyd would travel next, Milwaukee first and second grade postcards featuring him around their classroom, and Lake Mills fourth graders' book reports featuring a picture of them reading with Floyd! How cool is that? 

So now I have to decide what to do in my classroom. My kids love to have him at DEAR time. They race to get him so they can show their parents. They play with him instead of doing their work. It's really fun to see something concocted by my friends turn out so beautifully. 

Hopefully in a few months I will get him back again, with a whole new set of papers and pictures. 

But what about the rest of your story? What else did you do in Colorado? 
Besides throw snowballs, take the best picture ever, eat some awesome Thai food, stay at a sleazy hotel, have to call the lobby (twice!) to see where the local ER was, take one of our friends there, meet a germaphobe nurse, learn the girl has pink-eye, see the Air Force Academy Chapel, see where the Olympians practice (my personal favorite part), be threatened to stop at every cute place to take a scenic photo OR ELSE at Garden of the Gods (which, seriously, was every ten feet), go to a youth hockey game, visit the nanny kids, try not to puke when you see all their Colorado Avalanche paraphernalia, see downtown Denver, buy a beautiful panoramic picture that finally got framed and hung a month ago, see the church my father started now be a thriving beautiful self-supporting church, go to Casa Bonita- the craaaaaziest Mexican Restaurant I've ever been to (and I've been to Mexico!), and meet the other high-profile (so high-profile we proclaim October 22 his day) member of our group, John the Cliffdiver? 

Oh, not much.

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