It was just a few days before Christmas. The kids were all gathered on the carpet for story time. You could feel the electric energy in the room. Some were literally bouncing on their little bottoms. Nearly every one was bursting to shout out the answer to the question I had just asked.
"Tell me what you want for Christmas". Nineteen kindergarten-sized hands shot into the air, and as usual, Billy could not wait to be called on and blurted out his desire for an iPod. McKenzie said she wanted a red sparkly sweater. Jorge wanted a dog.
Callie waited until almost last. She announced in a small voice that she and her Mom just want an ordinary life.
"An ordinary life?" I asked
"Yeah."I could barely hear her. "A mom, a dad, a house, a car. Food to eat. A plastic armadillo.".
Life has been tough in this west Texas town. The foundry closed two years ago. The drought wiped out the cotton crop. Almost every one of my students got free lunch and breakfast from Government assistance. More than half came from broken homes. Two lived with their grandparents. Three had at least one parent in jail.
After Callie spoke there was silence for a few minutes as the little minds thought about it. Billy raised his hand. For the first time all year he waited on me to call on him. "Mrs. Simon, can I change my wish?"
"I don't want an iPod anymore, I want an ordinary life". Echoes of "me too" bounced off the wall as a dozen voices shouted out the same desire. McKenzie started crying. She only wanted a red sparkly sweater. I told her it was OK.
I got home a little late that evening. I stopped by store to grab some chicken for supper. I pulled into the drive. Most of last week's snow had melted leaving only gray and black lumps in shady places and along the edge of the gravel driveway. A plastic armadillo was in the yard. Last summer they had appeared at WalMart and the little plastic rodent replicas were the yard decorating fad of the summer.
I could see the Christmas tree through the living room window. My husband was smiling at me through the glass. I was pretty certain Emily and Tommy were watching Spongebob on the TV screen. I felt a tear on my cheek as I realized all I really wanted for Christmas was my very ordinary life.