¡Viva Cocoa Zébra!
Mountain Connection, December 12th, 2022
Last week, Doug reconstituted the annual non-denominational, ambiguous holiday-related celebration that the Middle School has come to know and love: Cocoa Zébra. Invented in 2019 when Doug placed together two random nouns and declared the rules, the event has gradually morphed into a week-long gala involving experimental pronunciations and accent marks, novel twists and turns, and always outright majesty. This year, I was honored (with Doug’s approval) to introduce the event to the Upper School, though I was only granted such rights due to my previous experience and because I understand how precious the whole spectacle is to the Middle School (rightly, of course). So, we reached the joint resolution to begin small so as to preserve its crucial sincerity, and we limited the outreach project only to Sophie’s and my Advisory of 9th graders (two of whom have enjoyed C.Z. ranging back to Middle School). Per tradition, and following the lead of 7th and 8th graders (who crafted a lovely email invitation for us in both ‘fancy font’ and ‘regular font’), last Monday, Day 1, students within our Advisory drew names from the sacred basket, revealing the secret Cocoa Zébra upon whom they would bestow certain, specific gifts in accordance with set criteria: “Something to Eat” on Tuesday, “School Supply” on Wednesday, “Art or Something Made” on Thursday. For Friday we added the newly coined “Transparent Amorphous Animalia Day” (which somewhat resembles a similar undertaking named elsewhere after elephants who encompass all hues simultaneously). As always, creativity was key, since students were expected to keep the identity of their Cocoa Zébra hidden until the big reveal, which happened this morning. And, while the middle schoolers are typically afforded a specific time for C.Z. locker infiltration per day, the 9th graders, being a bit taller on average, were granted the opportunity to sneak gifts into the cubbies of their respective C.Z. instead. Plus, Doug declared that this year’s Cocoa Zébra was ‘safari themed’, and while I was never exactly sure what that meant, the photos of his transformation of the STEAM lab on the Emerald campus into a ‘Camp Cocoa’ tent with accompanying Land Rover photo booth clearly exhibit his supreme mastery. I can only hope to vaguely keep pace. In the Upper School, since we’re taking things relatively slowly, we secured a stock safari photo from the internet and, of course, we conferred a traditional bow tie onto one very lucky C.Z. (see the 2020 “Connection” article of late December to recall the most famous Cocoa Zébra photograph ever taken, which ushered in the bow tie initiative). Truly, the entire event lived up to its grand billing, and I am altogether thrilled to have had the opportunity to broaden its outreach. Ironically, my own daughter brought home a rumor from the Middle School late last week that Doug was considering retiring the tradition just as it’s gaining new headway and is surely destined to expand further into the Upper School for years to come. Alack! Could this be the end of Cocoa Zébra?!? Well, not if my Advisory has anything to say about it. Quite to the contrary, I’m confident that Doug, with perhaps the slightest of cajoling, will see it rise from the ashes again next December, perhaps in full, phoenix-themed gallantry, and so I would simply and admirably refer him back to the title of this article.