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It’s So Much

It’s Not Much

When a teacher dares to open her heart, a student crawls in, twisting the teacher’s heart.

            Annie didn’t own Crocs with Kibitz – those trendy plastic shoes with fancy button-like decorations—that most of my 4th grade students wore.  Her shoes were Wal-Mart white tennis shoes that the school counselor purchased.  Her jeans were fashionable and well worn or not so fashionable and almost new.  She had chosen two pairs from the box of donated clothes at school.

Everyday, Annie smelled like cigarettes.  Her hair wasn’t brushed.  She ate government-paid-free breakfast and lunch and didn’t understand why she couldn’t take home the leftover food that her classmates left on their cafeteria trays.

On the last school day before Christmas vacation, twenty-two excited students crowded around my desk.   They were excited and eager for me open their gifts.

“Open mine first!”

“Mama paid a lot for that fancy candle.  She said you’d better like it.”

“Mine has the biggest red bow.”

“It’s candy.  And I helped make it.

Annie sidled close beside me at my desk and put most of the discarded Christmas paper and bows in the trashcan.  But she clutched a crumpled piece of shiny red foil paper and a big gold bow tightly in her hands.

While I continued to open gifts, Annie asked to use the Scotch tape on my desk.  She took the paper, bow, and tape to a corner in our classroom.  Then she ran back to her desk and stuck something from inside it under her shirt.  The other students didn’t notice Annie.  In fact, they rarely noticed Annie.

I put on every gift of jewelry.  I marveled over a Christmas sweatshirt that was decorated with a sequined snowman, a hand crocheted Santa Claus, and a glittery angel.

I stashed gifts of food—honey, banana bread, chocolate candy—into a basket.  These were my family’s favorite teacher presents.

As the party ended, the children ate cupcakes decorated with chocolate frosting and green sprinkles.  They drank red fruit punch.  The girls clustered in groups of twos and threes.  The boys sat in one big group on the floor.

Annie wandered toward me as I set a cup of punch on my desk.  “Mrs. Ray,” she said. “I’ve got something for you.”  She held a gift tightly in her hands.

“Do you want me to open it now?”  I asked as I sat down.

She laid her gift, wrapped in wrinkled red foil paper and the gold bow bigger than the box, on my lap.  “Yes, but nobody else gets to see.”

As I torn away the many strips of tape, Annie stood so close that her body leaned against mine.  “It’s not much,” she said.

Inside a well-worn gold paper Avon box was a button.  A plastic gold coat button with tiny glistening rhinestones.

“Read the note,” Annie said.

To:  Mrs. Ray

                        I’m sorry, but the present isn’t that much it’s all I had.  I hope you enjoy it.

                        Merry Christmas

            Annie was wrong.  It was much.

It’s so much that every Christmas I wear that gold button, held by a safety pin through the button’s loop on the back, on my coat lapel.

It’s so much that it reminds me that giving a Christmas gift isn’t about the gift.

It’s so much that it reminds me why we celebrate Christmas.



One Response

  1. You are PRECIOUS, Mrs. Ray. Crying sloppy tears over this sweet story… & I so wish you were my daughter’s 4th grade teacher (or my own for that matter!). What a gift you are!
    Kristin Vanzant


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