In the last two weeks, I’ve read Dr. Seuss’s “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” – aloud – no less than 10 times. And watched the video, the original one that doesn’t stray from the book and uses the same drawn cartoon characters Seuss himself originated, at least half that many more.
I didn’t mind at all. I’d read the story a dozen more times if there were reason, and believe you me, I had reason. It’s one of the perks of my job as teaching assistant in a Pre-K class at a San Angelo class. Do 4-year-olds grasp the message the Grinch learns with such hilarious difficulty? No. I’d have to say not, but there’s a magical grasp of the rhythm and rhyme to the story, and we’re not above stealing a little magic now and again.
Faithful readers probably already know the Grinch’s attempted theft is a favorite of mine. It seems I can’t make it through the Christmas season without using some of my favorite lines in the story – and I may have used them already this year.
I hope you don’t mind if I repeat them again, now.
“He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. Maybe Christmas, he thought...doesn't come from a store.”
You know, I’m a believer. Not one to quibble over a glass half empty or half full – just happy that it can be refilled. I’ve also written in other Christmas columns other years that my Christmases change year-to-year, depending on where I am and alterations made necessary by life and the pursuit of happiness. There are years I need to be the one – metaphorically – holding my candle so the one next to me can light theirs from my flame and there are years I need to be the one touching my unlit candle to theirs to receive the light.
“Finding Christmas” is a common theme for columnists. I suppose it’s that universal realization that suddenly, in the oddest of moments, the happiness and spirit of all that is good and right is there, palpable, and prevalent. And it’s not something that came from a store. It is, as the Grinch discovered, “a little bit more.”
The class of eight children I’m an aide for is called in educational circles “PPCD.” I’m sure someone at some level knows what those letters stand for, but I don’t think I’ve met them. One of the P’s must stand for Pre-K. It doesn’t matter. Bottom line? The children in our class have special needs. None of the children are severely disabled or medically fragile. All are speech delayed. Some will overcome their challenges to be in general education by elementary school. The two boys with autism will probably be rocket scientists, once they learn to control their behavior, and they’re making progress. My sweetest and dearest child, who was born addicted to meth and suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome – well – we’re going to do as much as we can, and keep on loving and teaching him.
What will happen when his 4-year-old cuteness wears off really scares me, I’ll admit.
But here’s my finding Christmas story. The classroom teacher and I went Christmas shopping after school one day with the goal of filling eight small gift bags for seven little boys and one little girl. What we didn’t spend in money, we made up for in thought and consideration.
We had a blast. Dinosaurs and small cars, bouncy balls and whistles, fat crayons and drawing paper tablets for the boys; crayons and a coloring book, a small doll with purple hair and another little animal with big eyes and a removable hat and other accessories for our little girl.
At the party, at last, we distributed the gift bags and oh my goodness. Those children were thrilled. Our little girl asked over and over, “I get to take this home?” Our little boys rolled their cars and staged their dinosaurs. As good as that was, the best part had to be looking up at the parents who’d come for the party.
The happy children playing and having such fun let them enjoy the moment – escape from the worry of therapy and the constant gnaw of wondering “Will my child be OK?” Because in that few moments, their children were just children without labels.
It was a tremendous gift we’d given and we’d done it completely by happenstance, just as amazing, though, was realizing I had received much more than I’d given.
Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.