A Holiday Story
by Georgia Earnest KlippleTHE CHILDREN'S ASSIGNMENT was: Write five sentences telling something you learned on a trip.
The smallest boy in class said in some distress, "I didn t learn anything because I didn t go on a trip."
"Tell something you learned when you visited your grandmother or your aunt," I said.
He shook his head. "I didn t visit anybody," he said.
"Tell what you learned when you went downtown, when you got your school shoes," I said.
"I never go downtown," he cried and burst into violent weeping. "I am so miserable, so unhappy, and nobody ever plays with me," he wailed. He put his head down on his desk, sobbing loudly. "I wish I was dead."
I could think of nothing appropriate to say. The children were frozen, like when they play "Statue." They looked at me, pale, open-mouthed, silent, waiting.
At last I spoke. "I am trying to think of something that will help Howard in his trouble," I said.
The class breathed again. You could hear them. About three hands went up.
"What did you wish to say?" I asked a little girl.
"I just wanted to say," she said, "that I get sad too, sometimes. When Mamma gets real mad at me and fusses, it makes me sad, and what I do is I go out in the yard and pick up some little sticks under the tree in our yard and I dig little holes with them. Sometimes my sister and I build little houses with them."
“That is a helpful suggestion,” I said, somewhat -blurredly. I nodded in the direction of another raised hand.
“Mlz Klipple,” the husky owner of the hand addressed me in a business-like way. “I got a garden I got planted. I plant my own seeds in the flower bed. I could get Howard some seeds.”
A youngster who is rather too proud of himself for having ridden an Italian freighter from Venezuela to Corpus Christi rose and came to the desk. “I know my father would be glad to take Howard to the naval base,” he boomed earnestly.
A plump little girl who had brought her Barbie doll and its entire wardrobe to school and had been playing with it in her spare and not-so-spare moments said, “I'm never sad, but my mother is sometimes. What she does is to get out her book of reducing exercises and she starts taking exercises.”
At this point about 20 hands were up. “If you have something you wish to say to Howard,” I said, “you may visit his desk and converse with him while we continue with school business."
They lined up three or four at a time, very quietly. Some sat down beside him. I have no idea what they said, but at the end of the day I noticed Howard and a small brown-eyed girl leaving hand-in-hand. The next morning he appeared at the door hand-in-hand with another one!
This story originally appeared in the Texas Observer 35 years ago.
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