Christmas was just around the corner and Mrs. Greenfield decided to share Christmas songs and stories that she grew up listening to. Each afternoon just after lunch, a new song or a story was told. The students always looked forward to this. They quieted down and listened with great intent.
This was an excellent exercise for them to sharpen their listening skills and their communication skills, not to mention they loved to sing even if they were not the best.
One of the favorites happened to be Frosty the Snowman who magically came to life once a silk top hat was placed on his head. At first, the class was disappointed that Frosty quickly melted once the temperatures rose.
Mrs. Greenfield had to quickly reassure them that Frosty does come back every year once the snow begins to fall. sharing his laughter and songs with all the boys and girls. This particularly made little Bethany happy. She had cried once Frosty had said goodbye.
At the start of each day, Mrs. Greenfield opens the door to their classroom greeting the children with hugs and smiles. As they sat down ready to start their day she would tell them what song or story was in store for that afternoon.
“Today we will listen to the song “Rudolph”. It is about a young reindeer who was born with a noise that was very different from all the other reindeer. His parents loved him regardless.”
Bethany’s eyes widened with excitement. She hoped the morning would go by quickly so she could eat lunch and she could hear more about this reindeer named Rudolph.
Bethany was the first student in the classroom after lunch was over. She sat quietly as the other students arrived. Some of the boys took their time arriving. They were preoccupied with playing their game of tag.
“Billy, Chris, Nathan hurry up. Mrs. Greenfield will play the song for us as soon as you sit down.” Bethany yelled. Nathan rolled his eyes at her. She gave him a stern look back and he sat down avoiding looking at her again.
Their teacher busied herself connecting her laptop to the monitor on the wall above her desk and cueing up the popular children’s Christmas song. She looked over in Bethany’s direction. She was sitting with her hands folded on her desk with a huge smile on her face.
The music began to play. The animated characters captured all the student’s attention. When the reindeer wouldn’t play with Rudolph anymore Bethany’s smile turned to a frown. She buried her face in her hands with disappointment.
The music continued ” Then one foggy Christmas eve.” and Bethany looked once again at the monitor. Her smile returned. All of his friends returned. Rudolph became a hero and saved Christmas.
As Mrs. Greenfield turned off her laptop, Bethany asked her, “Why was Rudolph judged just because he wasn’t like the other reindeer?” Nathan blurted out, “He has a big nose!” Once again he received that same stern look from Bethany.
Her teacher thought for a minute to find the right words to say, ” Some people are quick to judge others without really getting to know them. All Rudolph wanted was friends to play with. It was when Santa asked for his help that his others wanted to be his friend again.
“Well ,that is silly. I hoped they all learned a lesson.” Mrs. Greenfield closed the lid to her laptop and said, “ I believe they did and maybe all of you have too. Now let’s get busy. Get your math books out and turn to page seventy-two.”
Bethany couldn’t wait until the end of the day and thank her teacher for another wonderful holiday song. She ran all the way home, anxious to share this song with her mom and baby sister.
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Children have the purest soles and do not see differences. Their world is seen through rose colored glasses.
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just around the corner – idiom : not far away
sharpen – verb: to improve
magically – adverb: in a beautiful way
reassure – verb: say or do something to remove the doubts or fears
in store – phrasal verb: coming in the future; about to happen
regardless – adverb: despite the circumstances
preoccupied – adjective: distracted
stern – adjective: serious
cueing up – verb: set a piece of audio or video equipment in readiness to play
captured – verb : catch
Question ( s ):
Have you ever listened to a song and try to find it’s true meaning behind it?
Noreen saw her granddaughter staring out the window to the streets below. She was fascinated that the people looked like ants running back and forth. From the seventeenth floor, everything looked small.
Emilee and her parents just moved to the city. Her dad’s previous job had closed its doors and living in the country finding work was far and few between. He and his wife hated the idea of moving. They wanted to raise their children outside the city. For now, they only had Emilee, who just turned five, but they wanted more children in the future.
She hadn’t started school yet. Her birthday fell in October which meant she couldn’t start school until September of the next year.
By moving to the city she had left all her friends behind and her parents both working during the day all she had was her grandmother to entertain her. Noreen would take her to the park at least once a week or take shopping at the mall or just sit home to have a tea party with her dolls.
One of her favorite things she loved was having tea parties with Grandma. They always had cookies and milk to serve to their guests. One day Emilee had told her grandma, ” Mr. Bear loves the chocolate chip cookies the best and he would appreciate having them more often.”
The weather starts to cool off in October and Noreen dislikes the cold. Their playdates at the park would soon come to an end until spring comes back. This meant Grandma Noreen had to come up with another activity to occupy her granddaughter’s day.
“Tomorrow we will go shopping for a craft to do together or a puzzle maybe. What do you think, Emilee? It is getting too cold for Grandma to go outside so we won’t be going to the park again until springtime.”
“Can we go to the mall that has all the Halloween decorations? Daddy says we cannot trick or treat this year. He doesn’t know the neighborhood and said maybe next year we can go out.” Noreen agreed to take her to the mall.”
Over dinner that evening Emilee asked her grandma, “What Halloween was like when you were a little girl like me?”
‘It wasn’t as exciting as it is now. We didn’t have haunted houses or parties. When I tuck you into bed, I will tell you about a very special Halloween that my mother did for me. Now you finish eating your dinner. Your parents should be home from work shortly.”
Emilee finished dinner and had her bath. Her parents came home and visited before she headed to bed. As promised, her grandmother began to tell her of a very special Halloween.
“It was 1971 and my parents had moved to the city, the same city where I lived ever since. I married your grandfather here and had your father here.”
“When we moved here I was just about your age. I left all my friends behind, just like you.” Emilee was listening carefully. Her grandmother seemed to know how her granddaughter felt.
“It was, I think, late August when we made the move. We moved into a neighborhood that had many families but all the children were much older than I was.”
“We lived on the third floor in one of the older apartment buildings. I think it is gone now. I used to sit on the balcony and watch all the kids play but not one invited me to join them.”
“I sat and cried many nights wishing to move back to where all my friends were. My mother told me, Give it some time, honey. You will make tons of friends soon. I didn’t believe her.”
“Before you knew it October had come. Almost two months of sitting and watching. My mother had seen my unhappiness and tried to entertain me. One weekend we drove out of the city to a very well-known pumpkin farm. We could go out into the field and pick our very own pumpkin.”
“What happened there that day was truly magical. I saw my very first scarecrow. He sat by the entrance of the path to the pumpkin field, with an inviting smile. I remember looking into his eyes and feeling happy.”
“Come along Noreen. We need to pick out our pumpkin, I heard my mother saying. After walking up and down rows and rows of pumpkins, I found what I thought was the perfect pumpkin.”
“It was a bit too heavy for me to carry so my mom carried it back to the car. I remember stopping once more to look at the scarecrow. My mother hurried me along as it was about an hour’s drive back home and she wanted to get ahead of the traffic.”
“I remember glancing back one last time at the scarecrow before we drove away. My mother had noticed my fascination with it and asked me if I would want my very own scarecrow and he can sit out on the balcony with me?”
Emilee was laying on her side now with her head propped up by her hand. She was curious about this scarecrow. “Go on. What did you tell your mother?”
Noreen smiled down at her granddaughter. “Of course, I told her yes! The very next day we went to the goodwill store and picked out the oldest men’s clothes we could find. Pants, an old red plaid flannel shirt, a pair of old boots, and even found a straw hat. It was a little lopsided but we knew it would add character to our scarecrow.“
“As we approached the check out to pay for everything I remember asking my mom what we could use to stuff Harry and what about his head?”
“Harry? You’ve given him a name already?
“The cashier heard our conversation and asked what we were making. I immediately told her Harry the scarecrow for Halloween. He will sit out on our balcony for everyone to see.”
Noreen glanced at Emilee to see if she had fallen asleep. She hadn’t. “That was a perfect name, Grandma. I would have called him Harry too!”
“The cashier rang up all the items my mom and I had picked out. She kindly mentioned we could use a pumpkin for the head and if we wanted we could stop by her father’s place and get some straw to stuff the clothing with, to make the body.”
“She jotted down the address and phone number then handed a slip of paper to my mother. We thanked her and headed home.”
“That evening I could barely sleep. My mother had promised we would create Harry the next day after we picked up the straw.”
Emilee let out a loud yawn. “We can finish this story tomorrow.” She shook her head no. “I want to hear more about Harry.” Noreen smiled and continued her story.
“I wasn’t sure what time I fell asleep but I know I woke before the sun was up. I remember staying in bed until my mother said goodbye to my dad as he left for work. “
“I ran to the kitchen to find my mom having coffee at the kitchen table. When can we go to get the rest of the things for Harry? Mom looked at me with amazement. She asked how I could have so much energy in the morning?.“
“I quickly answered her. It’s the day Harry comes alive just like the snowman in Frosty The Snowman.” Emilee knew which story her grandmother was talking about. “The snowman with the magical top hat that came alive once the hat was placed on his head. Right grandma? Noreen nodded.
“My mom had made my breakfast and tidied up the house before she made the phone call to the cashier’s dad. She finished the call and had come into the kitchen. I was just finishing my breakfast.”
“He said we can meet him around ten this morning. He also said he has a small pumpkin patch if we would like to pick out a pumpkin for Harry’s head. I couldn’t wait to leave. It seemed that time was moving slowly.”
“We met John a little after ten. His home was on the outskirts of town, an area my mother rarely went to. So we didn’t make a mess in our apartment. He suggested we bring the clothes we wanted to stuff with straw.”
“I had held Harry’s clothes tight against me for the whole trip. I left the straw hat at home. This was the magical hat that would bring Harry alive for the Halloween season. I didn’t want anything to happen to it.”
“John was very helpful. He helped us stuff the clothes and even tied off the ends of the pants and sleeves with rope so the straw wouldn’t fall out. Then he walked us to his pumpkin patch. It wasn’t as small as we had thought nor was it as big as what we had seen on the TV.”
“Now, Noreen, you can pick any pumpkin you want. Just go up and down the rows until you find the perfect one for you. I looked up at my mom with a huge smile on my face and off I ran.”
“It seemed I ran for miles until I found the perfect pumpkin. It wasn’t too small or too big. And definitely, the straw hat would fit. I found it, I yelled. It’s perfect. I gently picked it up and carried it all the way back to where both John and my mother stood waiting.“
“Mom thanked John and his daughter for their kindness and they packed up everything to head home. I had given John a hug before I got in the car. I still remember his big belly and how hard it was for me to get my arms around him.”
“By the time we arrived home, mom had to start dinner, dad would be coming home shortly. Mom promised we would assemble Harry after dinner. I hurried and ate my dinner and asked to leave the table. I kissed dad and went to the balcony to wait for mom.”
“Finally, we assembled Harry on an extra chair. Once he was in the right position where people could see him from the street. I had the honor of placing his magical straw hat on his head. He looked better than the one we had seen at the pumpkin patch. That one didn’t have a straw hat. I was so proud of our creation.”
“The next morning I begged my mom to have my breakfast out with Harry. I sat there and talked with him as if he was a friend. As the days passed the neighborhood kids started to notice Harry. Some actually came close to get a better view and talked to me about him.”
“Eventually the kids invited me to come and play with them. Sometimes they ate lunch with me and Harry out on the balcony. So the magic that Harry had was giving me the opportunity to make new friends in this big city.”
“Grandma? Can we make our own Harry? One I can sit with?” Noreen looked into her granddaughter’s eyes, “Of course, we can. And you know what I have after all these years? Harry’s straw hat. I kept it with me, hoping to build a Harry for my children but life got too busy. So kiddo, you and I will build our scarecrow tomorrow.”
“Now it is time to go to sleep.” Noreen bent down to give Emilee a kiss good night. Her granddaughter threw her arms around her neck and whispered, “You’re the best grandma in the whole world.” Emilee turned over and pulled the covers over her shoulder.
Noreen turned off the bedside lamp and turned around to see her son, Emilee’s father, standing there at the door. “ I agree with her. Not only are you the best grandma in the world but I think you are a darn good mom too“, her son said as she passed him at the door. He bent forward and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
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fascinated – adjective: attracted and interested
far and few between – idiom: infrequent
entertain– verb: provide amusement or entertainment
playdates – noun: a time or date when children play together
occupy – verb: fill the mind or thoughts
decorations – noun: ornaments
balcony – noun: an upper floor area in apartments where one can sit outside
scarecrow – noun: an object made to resemble a human figure, set up to scare birds away from a field where crops are growing
fascination – noun: excitement
curious – adjective: eager to learn or know something
lopsided – adjective: disproportioned
amazement – noun: surprise or wonder
tidied up – phrasal verb: arrange or small cleaning
outskirts – noun: the outer parts of a town or city
Question ( s ):
Do you have a special memory of a holiday growing up?
My brother Samuel often received stares from others when we were out in public. People concluded there was something different about him and shied away.
Many made the assumption that mom must have used alcohol or drugs when she was pregnant with him. This is not the case at all. Sam was born with an intellectualdisability.
In the past, this was dubbed mental retardation, bringing much hurtful slang towards the ones with these disabilities. These slangs upset my mom terribly.
“My son is just like all others” she argued. “He laughs. plays and does everything your child does. It may take him a little longer to understand but he eventually does.”
I always protected my brother when we were at school. We were 3 grades apart from one another and thankfully, we are at the same school. He always knew where to look for me after school . We would meet up and walk home together.
Some days he would have to wait for me. I was the editor of the school’s newspaper and sometimes we had a short meeting after school. He never minded. He always found something to keep him busy as he waited.
As the school year pressed on, Samuel was more quiet than usual. He was never really quiet around me as he was with strangers. I chuckled somedays as he chattered on about his day . It was hard to keep up with what he was talking about.
“Hey Sam, why are you so quiet? Something bothering you? I asked. Samuel looked up at him “No.” I knew this was not true. Something was. In his own time he would tell me.
I guess a week or so had passed and Samuel wasn’t waiting for me in his usual spot after school. I waited for a few minutes and began to look for him.
I asked a few teachers, when I passed them in the hall, “Have you seen my brother?” and each resounded a “No, theyhadn’t.”
It was the last place I looked where I found him. He was huddled up next to the bleachers in the gym. He was covering his head and you could hear him sobbing.
I yelled out, “Sam, what’s wrong?” He looked up at me and you could see a mark on his face which obviously looked as if he was hit. Tears running down his cheeks.
“A bunch of boys kept pushing me around and calling me a retard. I tried to leave but they kept following me. I came in here and one hit me.” I was so angry at this point. I helped him to his feet and wiped off his face. His brother looked at him, ” Am I a …retard?”
“Don’tbe silly Sam. You are you. Things in life are a little more difficult for you and may take you longer to do but you are not a retard. Now let’s go home.”
The brothers arrived home and explained everything to their mother. Of course she immediately called the school to alert them on what happened to her son.
A couple of weeks had passed and Samuel was back to himself. The school authorities suspended the students for the rest of the school year for what they did to my brother. I was happy the school took this step towards this type of bullying but I wanted others to know what I felt.
I had asked the principal if I could publish an article, in our school newspaper, regarding this incident. He agreed to allow as long as he approved the contents before it went to publication.
I began writing right away and finished so it could go out in our monthly newspaper. I immediately took it to our principal for him to read the next day.
I knocked on his door and entered. “I have finished my article. Can you read it over so I can make sure it gets published?”
He handed his heartfelt article to the principal and he began to read.
Most of you know who my brother Samuel is but do you know him? Have you ever stopped to say hello or have a conversation with him?
Let me tell you about my brother Sam. He is the kindest person I know. He finds good in everything and has the purest heart. If he is capable he would do anything for you.
He has an innocence about him that many do not have. He never judges anyone nor says anything bad about anyone. This is more than I can say about most, including myself.
When my brother was born, I was three, I had no idea of his disability nor do I really see one now. He is my brother. We had our fights growing up but we also shared secrets.
We enjoy playing sports and watching scary movies on TV, even though Mom gets mad at us because we do not go to sleep afterwards.
Does any of this sound different from you?
I do not want to go into details but when Samuel was tormented and hurt by fellow classmates it saddened me more than it made me mad. How could a person do this to another? How could they do this without really knowing Samuel?
Next time you happen to pass my brother in the hallway, why don’t you say hello to him. Get to know him. You will discover what I have about him. He is the best person I know and has taught me a lot. I am proud he is my brother.
Editor / Samuel’s brother
The principal finished the article and handed it back to Caleb. “You did a wonderful job with this. Absolutely, send this to print.”
The newspaper came out and Caleb took two copies home with him. He shared one with his Mom and the other with Samuel. He knew Samuel wouldn’t be able to read it so he read the article to him.
As Caleb finished the article and looked up, Samuel leaned in with a bear hug. “I love you too!”
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Is this behavior due to the lack of understanding? Who is to blame for such actions? Is it the parents? The education system?
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stares – noun: a long fixed look at someone or something
assumption – noun: accepted as true without proof
concluded – verb: arrive at a judgement
shied – verb: avoid
intellectualdisability – noun: limits to a person’s ability to learn at an expected level and function in daily life
dubbed – verb: to give an unofficial name or nickname
slang – noun: very informal words or language used mostly by the younger generation
pressed on – phrasal verb:to continue moving forward in a forceful or steady way
chuckled – verb: laugh quietly
chattered – verb: rapid talking
resounded – verb: echo
huddled up – adjective: to sit in a bent position with your arms and legs close to your body
bleachers – noun: bench seat at a sports arena or gym
sobbing – noun: noisy crying
suspended – verb: to stop someone from going to school whether temporarily or permanently
publication – noun: the act of making an article available for others to read
heartfelt – adjective: sincere
innocence – noun: being innocent
tormented – adjective: physical or mental suffering
bear hug – noun: tight embrace
Question ( s ):
Do you find yourself staring at someone who looks different? Maybe dressed differently or in a wheelchair?