I told you a couple of days ago that I grew up in a self-inflicted (by my father), financially challenged household. We never had a lot, and due to my father's drinking problem, we moved so very often, town to town, home to home, always either unpacking or packing up.
When I was in the second grade we lived in yet another rented house, and again we had little to no money. We had only been in this particular town for a short while and already the job was lost and my father had relocated to a different town. We couldn’t afford to move yet, so my mother, my sister and I were left behind for the time being.
Christmas was approaching and just like all elementary schools at that time everyone was gearing up for the big Christmas show. My teacher sent a note home to all the parents informing them that she would need about five dollars to cover the costs for the show. My class was going to be the rhythm band and we would have little outfits to wear. My mother sat me down and explained to me that there was no way that we had the money for this event. I couldn’t be in the Christmas band.
I wasn’t mortified. I was too young to feel that emotion. I was hurt. How could I not be in the Christmas band with everyone else in my class?
I had to tell my teacher that I couldn’t be in the band and I had to tell her why.
The first day of practice, all of my class was on the stage in the auditorium learning their songs as I sat out in the audience seats with my teacher. Just me. Nothing to do but watch and wish.
The next day of practice I was once again sitting there all alone except for the teachers. I just sat there. Then my teacher got up and walked over to some other teachers and they were talking. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, because I was listening to the Christmas band practicing with their shining triangles, their gorgeous big jingle bells and their pretty little wooden sticks.
My teacher came over and asked me to come with her. We went outside the auditorium and she knelt down in front of me. She told me they needed me to sing a special song for the Christmas program. She said the name of the song was “Bow Wow wants a boy for Christmas.” She wrote down the words for me and the next practice day I went up on the stage and practiced singing. To this day, I know all the words to that song.
Hey, now I was no longer sitting out there with the teachers, I felt I was the star. I had my very own song to sing. Who needs those silly triangles and bells and wooden sticks. I didn’t need any of it. I had my own special part.
Finally the night of the show arrived. I can’t remember if my Mother was there. As I sat back stage awaiting my moment in the spotlight, I felt like a million dollars. Just before it was time for me to walk through the curtains, my teacher came to me and she was carrying a little beagle puppy. She asked me if I would like to hold the little puppy while I sang my song. I mean does it get any better? Not only did I get to sing the “special” song but I would get to hold this little puppy too. Star quality and puppy breath, what a wonderful combination.
I vaguely remember singing the song and cuddling that little puppy. I vaguely remember the audience clapping. But to this day I have never forgotten that teacher and what she did for me that Christmas. Now I realize that she created that “special” song for me. She found a way to include me. She took me from loneliness to inclusion and happiness. She saw what was happening to me as I sat there watching the others participate. She probably did more for me than I have ever really realized. I don’t know what my attitude would have been had I not been given the gift of that song. Maybe it would have sowed the seeds of ill content in my little head. I don’t know. I do know that, that night I felt so very special and it was due to the thoughtfulness of my teacher. Okay, and maybe that little puppy too.
Mrs. Cantrell, if by some quirk of the internet, you should read this, please know that this adult thanks you so much for what you did for that little girl that Christmas a long time ago.