A Christmas Story

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When I entered the first grade at Avondale Grammar School in the fall of '42 I was excited and so were my two younger siblings. They questioned me everyday with questions about what we did and if I liked it.

I evidently failed to paint a rosy picture for them, and I could sense my sister was beginning to feel apprehensive about entering school the following year. She thought we would be doing the fun things such as making toys, drawing pictures, etc. The only answers I could report to her thus far was that although we had drawing poster board and a new box of crayons, Mrs. Robinson had never even mentioned them. I explained we were studying the alphabet, learning to read and write and studying arithmetic. My sis didn't find these things exciting at all.



Well, it was around the middle of November best I can recall that I came down with the mumps, then the measles, then the whooping cough. Before I could recover from one and return to school, I would catch the next one. My sister and brother also came down with the same sicknesses, and my parents literally turned our home into an infirmary. I remember at least two metal buckets filled with fireplace ashes for our use as barfing buckets and believe me there was plenty of that. There were no immunization shots offered at that time, and once you contacted those diseases you just rode them out. I guess we would have to actually stop breathing to be taken to a doctor. I later discovered that many others at school were out with the same afflictions.

One good news to my sister was that I remembered my last day of school before my sickness that Mrs. Robinson had promised our class that the day before the holidays we would draw a Santa Claus to take home. I remembered that everyday I was sick, and it so happened I got to return to school the last day before the holidays. She was reading a story to us, and after a while I was beginning to think she had forgotten her promise to the class. I raised my hand, and she stopped reading and I said, "When are we going to draw our Santa Claus?" She stared at me silently, and I responded, "You promised". She slammed her book down on the desk, and we all jumped and she replied in a loud voice, "Get out your drawing paper and crayons".

Everyone smiled and the silent and iciness of that classroom slowly became warm and joyous as the spirit of Christmas entered the room. The giggling and squirming of my classmates began to slowly transform Mrs. Robinson's face into a smile as the spirit of Christmas reached her. As I studied her face, I could see that she had forgotten her promise and failed to realize how important it was to us. She even smiled at me as if to thank me for reminding her.

You see, I had promised my sis I was bringing her a colored picture of Santa Claus that I had drawn myself, and I never entertained the thought of going home without that picture. It had to be perfect. I made every effort to color within the lines and bear down hard to bring out the brilliant red in Santa's suit and was the last one to finish. I placed it under my shirt to avoid any folding creases and couldn't wait to show it to my family (especially my sister). That picture changed her mind about school. The following year she couldn't wait for school to start.

I tacked that picture on the wall, and it stayed there for two years until my little brother set our house on fire my lighting a stick in the fireplace and accidentally torching the thin drapes in that room and completely destroying almost half the house, but that's another story.

Bill Watkins
watkins238@aol.com


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