We are at the penultimate entry for 12 Days of Christmas STORIES, and today I give you the first part of my New Years story..
Maribelle Collingsbee had been teaching third grade at Our Lady of the Snows for 31 years.
She knew that the first day back after Christmas vacation would be a swash if she didn’t let the children get out some of their excitement.
She looked down her at her three dozen pupils through her half-moon glasses and called the class to attention.
The children in six rows of six desk in even lines and rows straightened in their seats. “Well boys and girls, welcome to 2009!”
“Happy New Year!” Said Lucy McCall in a silly voice that was supposed to make her sound like she was drunk.
“And Happy New Year to you Lucy.” Said Mrs. Collingsbee with out skipping a beat.
“Now, children please raise your hand if you practiced your math over break.”
The 36 kids in front of her snuck looks at one another. No one had thought about SCHOOL since they’d fled from OLSS’s historic stain glass front doors into the light snow on December 23rd.
“I see.” She said in mock displeasure. “And who has worked on their grammar?”
“Spelling?” No one. “My, my.” She said with a tiny hint of a smile. “What on Earth have you been doing with all your time?”
Mrs. Collingsbee turned to the chalkboard (they still had chalkboards in room 2-E at Our Lady of the Snows) and wrote “My favorite thing about Christmas break…” in her exquisitely flowing cursive penmanship.
“Please take out a clean sheet of paper…” she underlined the sentence on the board… “and label it thus.”
The children obeyed. Some of her students used a chunky, rudimentary cursive, but the majority of the class had yet to master those slippery curlicues. They opted for the blocky print style of handwriting.
Maribelle waited until the last pencil had been returned to its indentation on the desk.
There was that moment of tension in the class room when the students didn’t know if their old teacher was going to make them write and ESSAY about their two plus weeks of freedom.
“Now please get out your crayons — “ an audible sigh came from the class “ and draw a picture of your favorite thing about Christmas vacation.”
As she expected her class set into work quickly and quietly. She gave them a leisurely 20 minutes drawling time before making her rounds of the room to check on progress.
The usual suspects were represented. A new dress here, an expensive gaming system there.
Brandon Everly used almost every crayon in his box of 120 colors to illustrate the picture showing he got a big set of Hot Wheels under his tree. He was intently drawing an orange track around the border of the paper as Mrs. Collingsbee paused over his shoulder. “Vroom” she whispered in appreciation of the sketch. “Vroom, vroom.” The little boy whispered back. He’d surrendered the two cars he brought with him to school before class began. He wanted to play with them at recess, but he knew they’d be too much of a distraction if he’d kept them in his things. He and Mrs. Collingsbee had an understanding. He could trust her to keep his treasure safe.
Shelly Ballentine got a new American Girl Doll. She would have liked to have brought her doll to school too, no doubt, but at the $110 price tag it would be kept very safely at home.
Maribelle Collingsbee was very impressed with Joey Dashnell’s beautifully detailed bike drawling. She wondered at the gift, Joey was much more of an artist than an athlete. Although she was sure the boy appreciated the expensive gift (what child wouldn’t want a bike for Christmas?) she suspected that Joey enjoyed drawing it more than he would riding it.
Kiely Romsley, who had two older sisters, drew a self-portrait as well, she was wearing a beautiful red dress, heals that were too old for her, and bright red lipstick. Clearly Kiely’s penchant for “dressing sophisticated” was indulged on the special day. Mrs. Collingsbee said a quick silent prayer of thanks for the school’s policy on make-up and the plain blue pinafore uniforms the girls wore.
David Calendar scored a fine-looking pair of cowboy boots. He did a self-portrait too from the forced perspective of the tip of the boots toes looking up.
Viv-Anne Pendergast — who’s parents, Maribelle was sure, bought out Dixon’s Department Store — chose to picture a single item, a pair of sparkly red shoes.
Romano Valinsuala got an iPod Nano and showed himself, earplugs in place, dancing to his new tunes.
Odeana Washington got a digital camera that she drew along with some of the pictures she took.
Isaac Gannet got a hamster named “Fred.” Mrs. Collingsbee knew Fred was named “Fred” because Isaac drew a sign that said “Fred Lives Here” over rodent’s cage.
Tommy Underhill must have been a very good boy, indeed (at least he must have been better at home than he was in class). Santa brought him a puppy. (No name given).
Not every one drew things.
Charlotte Finney drew an old lady with heavy crayon wrinkles across her brow and a helmet of iron-gray hair holding a little girl’s hand. The little girl had bright orange braids like Charlotte. The little girl snuck a look up to Mrs. Collingsbee and was rewarded with a quick smile.
Grady O’Day, one of the nicest boys in her class, had been rewarded for his kindness by being given the prize role of the Angel in the church’s Christmas pageant. Maribelle wasn’t surprised to see that he chose that as his favorite thing about Christmas.
Mickey Laughton and her family took a trip to New York City. The little girl drew a rudimentary Statue of Liberty, some sky scrapers and the Broadway billboard for The Lion King!!!!
Petie Niley, who no one every mistook for angelic, drew himself kneeling in front of the life-sized manger. His hands were folded in prayer, his head bowed — the perfect little boy. Mrs. Collingsbee was tempted to borrow his crayon and write “A Christmas Miracle” under the obvious sarcastic drawing. She was sure he’d had a bountiful Christmas morning. The Nileys were the richest family in town.
Lucy McCall showed a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings on her paper. A huge turkey sat at the upper center of the page. A cartoon Lucy peeked over the bird — knife and fork in hand — a silly, mischievous look on her face.
Petie and Lucy were her class clowns. But while Lucy took the opportunity to be silly and make a bit of fun of herself Petie used the assignment to act up in a sneaky way. It wasn’t like Mrs. Collingsbee could give him detention for drawing a picture of himself praying — even IF they both knew it was a lie. He was throwing the assignment back in her face, and making fun of the children who were taking it seriously. What was worse, he’d draw other kids to his side in the mean spiritedness. What had been a natural magnetism last year had turned into a cult following lately. She did not like the direction Petie Niley was going. Not at all.
More dolls — Barbies, Bratz — UGH! would toy manufacturers ever tire of force feeding her little charges distorted images of what it was life to be a woman? — More hyper macho toys for the boys.
Very few gender neutral, educational toys made it to the “best of” list in her class room.
Mrs. Collingsbee turned the corner to walk up the last row “A few more minutes boys and girls, lets finish up.” …