My Most Disappointing Childhood Gift

I can still see myself even after all these years. It’s Christmastime (at our little country school), and I’m probably in the third grade. There are three grades in each classroom. The highest grade seats were next to the door, and I remember that I’m seated in this row. I’m sure the other kids are as anxious as I am to receive our much awaited gifts from Miss Teacher so we can see what she bought us.

She smilingly and tenderly hands the gifts out to the other grades first, so I’m waiting – on pins and needles. Finally, by the time she gets to our class row, the first and second graders have already torn the gaily wrapping paper off their presents and are smiling, laughing and giggling to the max. They’re more than satisfied with their little gifts.

Then, finally, Mrs. Smith hands me my gift. Before I finish taking it out of her hand, my heart is beating rapidly and I can’t seem to find a smile to put on my face. I think kids have a degree of ESP or intuition to perceive when something is about to happen that may not make them happy.

Disclaimer: The gift has nothing to do with the teacher’s dislike of me nor is the gift inappropriate for a kid my age. I was perhaps 8 years old. She was kind, loving, considerate, thoughtful, and a simply beautiful person – both inside and out. So, what I say is not a negative reflection on her. Well, anyway, I’m staring at this small, flat, beautifully wrapped “something” and holding my breath while I rip the wrapping paper off and sadness fills my heart.

I was sitting there thinking, “Why would she buy the other kids a toy and buy me this book … and of all things about … birds. … It’s not even a gift.” I couldn’t even appreciate the fact that she at least thought enough of me to buy me something. You know how immature children think. Even as young as I was, I knew it was rude to show displeasure with what someone graciously gives you. More than anything, though, I was upset with the other kids who were enjoying their Christmas to the hilt.

Beyond that moment, I have no idea what I said or did. All I know is that I didn’t want a book for a present. … I wanted a “real” gift. But when I look back on it, I realize that my teacher had some insight, that as a child, I didn’t have, and she also had some foresight that also as a child I obviously lacked.

In my later years and especially after I started writing, I saw why Miss Teacher gave me that book. Additionally, I now understand why she gave me a book about birds. Both books and birds are significant parts of my life. I love to read and write, and I absolutely love birds … especially their singing and chirping. I call their “livey chatter” bird songs. I’m hard-pressed to think of any place I’ve lived (especially after moving to California) where birds didn’t perch somewhere outside my window and “sing” for me. And there is no particular time for my little feathery creature-friends to serenade me. It can be anytime during the day, early morning or even at night.

I see the wisdom of the gift my teacher gave me, and I now understand the significance it has in my life.

Published on Oct 19, 2013

Grit Magazine

Live The Good Life with GRIT!