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Christmas Stories


(c)  1991 - D. Koning

My name is Ronald Cook, and I'm here to tell you about my most memorable Christmas, when I was only ten, back in 1961.

Mrs. Radmaster was my fifth grade teacher. Ah, old don't-forget-the-true-meaning-of-Christmas Radmaster. She was big on the true meaning of things.

We started the year with the true meaning of school and doing our best, the true meaning of sports and the true meaning of Reformation Day. She never talked about the true meaning of Halloween for some reason. I guess there were some things that she felt had no true meaning.

Anyway, we had just finished the true meaning of Thanksgiving. You know, be thankful for all the good things God's given to us. She emphasized that we should love others and that any act of kindness to "the least-of these" was like doing it directly to Jesus himself. It was an awesome concept, but I'll have to admit that for my fifth grade' friends and myself the true meaning of things tended to escape us especially at Christmas time when we had slightly different things on our mind. This year, however things were going to be different.

Christmas was on a Monday that year and Friday was the last day of school before vacation. All week the T.V. and radio were predicting snow for Christmas. So far it had been a pretty green December. However, Mrs. Radmaster's "true meaning of Christmas" speeches didn't include snow, but we did hear about shepherds and wisemen, mangers and angels, swaddling clothes and the Messiah who came to save the world from its sin.

That was the year that Jamie Stalworth, a relative of mine, decided to let Mrs. Radmaster experience the "true meaning" of a practical joke. He had this frog that he kept in an old aquarium in his room since the end of summer. He thought it would be a great idea to put the frog in a box, wrap it up and make it look all pretty and nice looking, so that Mrs. Radmaster would want to open it real bad.

With a week to go before vacation Jamie brought a nicely wrapped box to school and insisted that she open it in front of the whole class. Well, Mrs. Radmaster was a patient lady and said that she could wait to open it until the party day next week Friday.

Jamie wasn't a real deep thinker and figured that would be okay to wait a week for old Radmaster to have that frog jump out of that box right into her wrinkled old face. He figured if she could wait then so could he!

The next Friday was party and present day at school. The north wind brought icy fingers of cold reaching through every possible opening in the fifth grade classroom that day. The thermostat, keeping up with the demand for heat, relayed signals to the boiler to keep the heat flowing to the heater along the wall under the gift table! The water in the pipes from the boiler room brought constant, cozy heat to the room with a reassuring tap, tap, tapping sound.

The warmth of the heater enhanced other qualities in the room that Friday. You see, there emanated from the gift table the aroma of something that wasn't one of those traditional Christmas smells, you know, pine trees, potpourri and so on. The smell was strong enough to about knock a guy over if he wasn't prepared for what would happen if he flung open the door.

You know how is when you open a door kinda fast and there's a whoosh of air that comes out and smacks you right in the face? Well, Mrs. Radmaster whooshed open that door on Friday morning, and discovered the true meaning of decomposing frog. The smell, the bouquet of which was like something that crawled into the room and died four days ago. It smacked her (and those of us who were within smelling distance) right between the eyes. The stale dead frog stench which filled the air, got her right in the nose. Both nostrils filled right up and we all expected her die, faint, explode or at least go running down the hall to fetch the janitor. The next thing we knew, Mrs. Radmaster walked briskly over to the gift table grabbed the beautifully wrapped box of dead frog and calmly and quickly stepped down the hall to the garbage barrel and gave that frog a proper burial. The thing that amazed us all wasn't that she could hold her breath for so long, but it was the fact that Jamie Stalworth was able to go home, under his own power, at the end of the day.

Thinking back it was even more remarkable that Mrs. Radmaster could get across the idea of the "true meaning of Christmas" without so much as saying a word! You see, later that day, at the class party, Mrs. Grace Radmaster let Jamie the prankster be the first one of the class to open his present from her. It was a pack of baseball cards with a Mickey Mantle card in it. He was his favorite ball player in the whole world!

The look on the troublemaker's face was the strangest thing I've seen. You know how it is when one of those class clown types don't quite know how to act when someone treats him nicely. I suppose he figured that if he got anything at all it would a rock or a stick or a dead fish or something. Jamie mumbled something like thank you and sat down with his card, a puzzled look etched on his face. I don't think anybody else saw it, but I saw Jamie wipe away a tear that was running down his cheek. He gave me that, "Ronald Cook, don't you dare tell a soul about this" look. So I, Ronald Henry Cook took a vow of silence not to tell a single classmate about Jamie's crying... until now.