Forever Gifts

Dec 23, 2010 | 2 comments

     One of the nicest gifts I ever received while I was teaching came not from a child and it couldn’t be placed under my tree.  It was a gift from a parent who offered to come and read her favorite Christmas story to my class.
     “It’s long,” she said.  “It will take a couple of hours to read.”
      So, we arranged that she would come in each day during the week before Christmas vacation and read for twenty minutes or so.  She began a tradition in my classroom.  Each year I read The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden to my class.  For children (and all of us) who ‘know’ about Santa but still want to believe, it’s the perfect story.  And, of course, it was another one of those that made me shed happy tears at the end – a phenomenon which was sure to delight class after class!
     I am ashamed that I don’t remember the name of that wonderful mom.  I do, however, remember her son.  His name was Thomas and he didn’t want to be called Tom or Tommy.  By second grade when he was in my class he no longer liked “Thomas,” either, and was considering “Thom” with the ‘th’ pronounced as in ‘thought’ and ‘thumb.’  They moved away before he finally decided and I’ve often wondered what he calls himself now.
     He was also the boy who absolutely opened my eyes to the difference in perceptions between adults and children.  Rather than ride the school bus, Thomas used to stay for a few minutes each day until his mom picked him up.  Often, he played basketball in the old converted tennis court on the playground.
     One afternoon his mom came into the classroom looking for him.
     “No,” I said, “he’s still outside.”
     “No,” she said, “he’s not.”
     A frantic hour or so ensued.  Phone calls to friends, to the bus garage on the off-chance…  His father left work to join the search.
     As it turned out, Thomas was fine.  He’d gone off with a “big boy” who sometimes stopped by to shoot baskets with him.  Not a stranger, in Thomas’s seven-year-old mind.  He knew him.  Not his name, though.  And, no, his parents had never met him.  And, no, he didn’t go to our school.
      From then on, we all adjusted our thinking about how we delivered the “stranger danger” message.  It was one of the most memorable wake-up calls I ever had from a student.  Not only his mom, but Thomas, too, gave me an intangible forever gift that I’ve been able to share again and again.  And his wasn’t even at Christmas.


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Sydney, you can bet that I will be checking out this book for my grandchildren. Books touch the heart like loving friends and surely the invention of the printing press was humankind’s great technological advancement, when books became available to more than the elite. Children’s books have always held a special place in my heart. A very long time ago I worked in Fremont Main Library in the children’s section and lugged home armloads of books to read to my own children. When they fell asleep I would read on–I had to know what happened next. The Story of Holly and Ivy sounds like one of those. Thank you for the book review.

    Thomas sounds like my grandson Gabriel. He likes and is interested in everyone he meets and we’ve long worried that he would go off with someone without a thought of us. Actually, his Uncle Josh followed “older” boys beyond our street one time and scared his father and me half to death.

  2. Stephanie K. Frieze

    Goodness, Sydney! You ARE up early. You will be exhausted by evening. Water that tree so I can see it next week. I will be thinking of you tonight.


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