If you listen very closely, you can hear it. It’s the unmistakable din of kids in schools bouncing off the walls. Of retail clerks collapsing, the faint rattle of mall workers opening bottles of Tylenol. The microscopic hum of thousands of mildly radioactive LED lights hanging on houses and draped on trees. It’s finally December, and you know what that means. It means it’s no longer November! Also, it’s officially Christmastime, and that means it’s now morally acceptable to play that song “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” in stores.
But as one of my characters (shameless plug ahead) in my Christmas book “Another Time – A Christmas in Parkvale” said: “The best Christmas is the one you’re having when you’re having it”. So, in the spirit of the season forgive me if I revisit a few memories from way back in the day when Santa was just starting to shave…
“Grade Fives, as you know, it is the first week of December,” Mrs. Pullyblank bellows to our class of reprobates at South School. “Do you know what that means?”
In a rare move, Chip’s hand shoots up. “Yes, Mrs. P.” Chip blurts out. “It means that it’s Christmastime!” Each spike of his red hair is vibrating like the aerial on his Old Man’s ’57 Chev.
Mrs. P. smiles. “Certainly, and today is indeed a special day. It is the first day of a New Unit entitled “Christmas – A Time of Giving”. Groans and giggles scatter around the room like a box of spilled Christmas ornaments, but just like that we were suddenly busy creating our very special “Stained Glass Pictures” – supposedly wondrous gifts that our families would come to admire as treasured traditional Christmas heirlooms for generations to come.
It turned out that it was actually just a regular sheet of thin yellow manila paper with the simple outline of a Christmas scene printed on it. Our job was to select very vibrant “stained glass” type colors from the classroom arsenal of Crayola crayons, and – big hairy deal – colour the picture. Our parents’ job, when presented with our masterpiece, was to make a suitable fuss over our impressive efforts and then put the picture up in a window of honor, which would magically transform into a “stained glass picture” when the cold crisp light of day shone through the page.
Every single one of us in that classroom except Mrs. Pullyblank knew full well that this “stained glass” project was pretty dumb even by Grade 5 standards, but it was better than Language Arts, and way better than Arithmetic. So we Grade 5 hooligans would be destined to hunker down and color ‘till our puny little fingers ached, while Mrs. Pullyblank stumped around the classroom mumbling incoherently and occasionally offering obscure coloring advice.
Surprisingly though, it turned out to be my best achievement as a crayon colourer so far, with bright carefully-chosen hues, coloured more or less within the lines. I was secretly quite proud of my stained glass Nativity picture even if it wasn’t actually made of glass. Even though upon close inspection the Baby looked a lot like a pale white chimpanzee.
Amazingly, Mrs. Pullyblank happened to be right all those years ago. My Mom and Dad loved that present, and it hung in the window by the Christmas tree every single year. And it’s still here at Christmas, at our house now. And every year I keep expecting the Louvre to call. I figure it would look real nice, right up there beside the Mona Lisa.
Harley Hay is a writer and filmmaker in Red Deer.