A longstanding tradition at EMS coalesced last week with a few modifications regarding social awareness and pandemic restrictions. Once dubbed ‘Secret Snowflake’ in an effort to avoid association with any specific denomination and in the spirit of an expansive holiday season, the Middle School were each paired with a single classmate to whom they offered small gifts over a few days. As happens in the normal capriciousness of the age group, last year the students voiced their dissatisfaction with the name for the event. So, in fitting his specific genius, Doug went long on arbitrariness and renamed the occasion ‘Coco Zebra,’ whose nomenclature is specifically meant to have nothing to do with anything. It worked to reinvigorate the larger occasion. This year, moreover, Doug added visual festivity in the form of an authentic zebra skin (because of course he owns one), which he brought to school on the last day for photographic accoutrement in both classrooms. Pairings were randomly selected within each cohort. On Monday, Day 1, each student brought ‘something to eat’ for his or her respective Coco Zebra (or Cacoa Zéeebrah as it has recently morphed). Students used Morning Meeting to deliver gifts to lockers, a process meticulously overseen by Doug and myself so as to ensure secrecy. Tuesday featured ‘a school supply’; Wednesday ‘something home-made’; the emphases per day were low on cost and high on thoughtfulness, as each student used what they knew about their Coco Zebra’s unique tastes. For the finale on Thursday, students brought a gift for whom they believed their Coco Zebra to be – the one who had, they guessed, been bringing them gifts during the week – then proceeded to guess the true identity before presenting their offering to the actual Coca Zebra, whether correctly deduced or not. In addition to the zebra pelt, 5-6 students adorned their classroom with wreaths and a computer-generated fire, along with a chess set (for some reason). A parent in the 7-8 group had used Google to somehow turn up a cartoon picture of a zebra drinking coco, so the class used it as a fitting backdrop and placed mugs on the zebra pelt to signify the coming of more coco (and/or zebras) in the weeks ahead. Much to their credit, all of the students have more or less forgotten that they’re wearing masks by this point in the year, and they reacted with fitting good cheer in keeping themselves appropriately distanced while exchanging gifts and pleasantries.