Darren’s last show and tell

A brave little six-year-old’s lifelong effect so many Christmas seasons ago.

Brenda Mallory

I feel awful today. Not the sickie kind of awful. It is the the kind that makes disappointment well up.

I found myself saying unkind words about another person. My comments bordered on gossip for heaven sake.

I was reminded how I would tell the young children in my classroom that if they felt they had something bad to say about another, they should say something nice first. This comes to mind remembering that very class. One little six-year-old said loud and proud, “teacher you’re so silly.”

So, let me tell you the final story of this little boy and the teacher who was so silly. You may have read this story in Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul.

As another Christmas approaches we all seem to have memories which are more vivid the further back we go. Everyone is able to recall time in the past when the festive season seemed better or more meaningful than it is today. Often that is the case.

I have been most fortunate to have many Christmas seasons pleasantly worth remembering. I can remember those when need be. The time I recall more than any other was the winter I taught in a small country school on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

I had three grades in my class. Three grades of little people beaming with desire to learn all they could. One little chap in Grade 1 wanted to learn a lot more than the others. His round puffy face would smile up at me reminding me over and over again that he would soon leave us. His small six-year-old body harboured a sad disease – leukemia. More often than not he would take his schooling in Vancouver as he once more bravely submitted to another cancer treatment.

We were all so pleased to have the little fellow with us that special Christmas so long ago. We decorated our classroom, practiced for the concert and coloured many pictures of Santa, angels and snowmen. We read Christmas stories and the older students wrote good ones of their own.

On the day before the Christmas holiday would send us home for three weeks, I read a new story to the class. It was about the Littlest Angel. The little angel had an awful time in heaven. He could not adjust to the routine. He was always in trouble, bumping into other angels, tripping over clouds or dropping his halo. Nothing seemed to make his time any easier until one celestial day an archangel suggested the littlest angel return to Earth to retrieve a few items from his home. Just a few things to remind him of his past time.

As I read the story to the class a silence fell over the children as they became more involved with the plight of the angel. In hushed voices we discussed the story, closing the page on another day at school.

The next during our ritualistic “show and tell” time, the little boy with leukemia asked if he could share something with the class. He sat in front of us on the old worn carpet with a small wooden box. His balding head bent over the box as he removed each item with much care.

“This is my first tooth, this is a ribbon from my sister’s hair and this is my puppies collar. My dad gave me this old key, my mom said it is for good luck.

“I have all these things so when I go to heaven I won’t be too scared. Maybe you guys could make a picture for me to take so I will remember.”

The rest of the day was spent doing just that. All of us prepared a picture, folded it and placed it in the wooden box.

The day finally ended with each child saying goodbye to each other. Every child gave the little boy a hug, getting a bright smile in return. I went home with the memory of a boy who fought his disease and would one day accept his destiny.

The Christmas holidays came to a close and we all returned to our class; all except the boy. He died that Christmas in a hospital away from home clutching the wooden box which held his hopes and memories, and ours. I have never forgotten that Christmas or the young boy who in his short life gave so much.

I have an idea if he knew I still remember after all these years he just might say “teacher, you are so silly.” Darren, you got that right.

You can share your stories when you email to mallory@bulkley.net. Your calls come to 250-846-5095.

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