Excitement and anticipation permeated the classroom! Mrs. Kittinger’s first grade class was bubbling over with the joys of Christmas. Today was the day to trim the Christmas Tree and they had each brought ornaments from home to make the tree their very own creation. Parker had several glass ornaments that looked very old. She told Chet and Porter that her mom had told her that they were Victorian and that she must be very careful with them and be sure that she hung each of them herself. Then she smiled and told her best friends that they could help her! Chet had tinsel to hang on the tree…and he had a lot of it. Porter had his GI Joes and Daniel Boone who looked like the actor Fess Parker, who portrayed Daniel Boone on TV. He also brought his action figures, Johnny West and Chief Cherokee and even Stony the soldier…whose legs did not bend. Porter’s plan was to create a western Christmas scene…and a World War II Christmas Scene under the live fir tree. It was Tuesday, December 22, 1962…and school was going to be dismissed early tomorrow and not be back in session until after New Year’s Day.
Soon everyone…or almost everyone was busily bustling around the Christmas Tree and all were talking at once. Chet mentioned to his friends that Marilyn and Tommy were sitting in the back two corners of the classroom and seemed sad. Parker proceeded back to Marilyn and Chet and Porter headed for Tommy. Marilyn was a pretty blond headed little girl that always seemed to want to enter into activities and fun…but did not know how to make the first step. When her classmates would speak to her she would smile and look away from them. On the first day of 1st grade…Marilyn had been so nervous that she had a accident…and from there all seemed to progress downhill. Her clothes always looked brand new and her mother sat with her at recess and lunch and brought her to the classroom door each morning and was waiting for her beloved daughter at the close of the school day. Porter had noticed that even when her mom would take her hand that Marilyn would smile and look away from her mother. Tommy sat with his mouth open for most of the day. Sometimes he drooled…and sometimes he fell asleep in class. Unlike Marilyn…Tommy seemed unkempt and had a odor about him that was somewhat unpleasant. Chet talked with Tommy everyday and Tommy loved to see Chet. He laughed and said, ‘How are you Buddy?’ Chet asked Tommy to come and help him decorate the Christmas Tree and Tommy replied that most of the kids did not like him and so he did not want to upset them this close to Christmas. Chet responded, ‘You are my best friend and there is no one that I would rather decorate a tree with or celebrate Christmas with…than you!’ Tommy laughed and jumped out of his desk chair and looked like he had been reborn!
Marilyn took Parker’s hand and slowly walked back to the holiday festivities as she smiled and looked down at the floor. Parker told Marilyn that her mom had sent some old Victorian ornaments with her to decorate the tree and that she had told her to not let anyone place them on the tree but her…but that she wanted Marilyn to help her…and Chet and Porter shook their heads in agreement. As Parker and Marilyn were hanging the ornaments…Parker told her that she had overheard her singing in Music Class and that she had a beautiful voice. Marilyn began so sing, ‘Away in a manger no crib for his bed. The little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head. The Stars in the sky looked down where he lay…the little Lord Jesus…asleep in the hay.’ Then…the entire class began to sing, ‘The cattle are lowing The poor baby wakes But little Lord Jesus No crying he makes I love Thee, Lord Jesus Look Down from the sky And stay by my side ‘Til morning is nigh…’ Mr. Skelton, The Music teacher stuck his head in the first grade classroom and began to lead the class in the last verse of the song, ‘Be near me Lord Jesus , I ask thee to stay Close by me forever, and love me I pray Bless all the dear children, in thy tender care And fit us for heaven, to live with thee there.’ Marilyn looked into Parker’s eyes and smiled as a tear coursed down her cheek…
‘Bless all the dear children…’