This is an old Christmas story going back to when I was in first grade . Last century stuff , ancient history . But it came to mind again today , and so here goes another post . That’s one of the nice things about having a meandering blog . I can put anything in here with no need to hold true to some particular topic . I can wander . So , here goes :
My elementary school , I think , had a Christmas charity drive every year . It did while I was in first grade , at least . I attended a Catholic school . Sister Carmel Mary was my teacher . My friend Joe asked a couple of weeks ago if I went to ” elementary” school or “grade” school . I was very sure at the time of my answer to Joe . No hesitation or shred of doubt crossed my mind then . Now I momentarily don’t know if we called it the one or the other . I remember the first grade , though , and Sister Carmel Mary . She was , as my mother would have said of decent people , “one of the good ones” .
Anyway , every kid in our school had to make a poster for this Christmas charity drive . Or , was it a Christmas fair ? CHRISTMAS IS FOR GIVING , SO WE’RE GIVING A…………….. I will need to dig the poster out of the garage . It’s sitting somewhere in the four-drawer file cabinet . My mother had saved it . I laminated it several years ago . CHRISTMAS IS FOR GIVING , SO WE’RE GIVING A ……………I should remember the finish . I should . I should remember how I answered Joe , too . But , temporarily , I don’t . [ Never fear ; we’ll check the evidence ] I’ve been known to forget my own phone number , too . Nobody’s perfect .
I procrastinated on the poster assignment . The due date kind of snuck up on me . I had no ideas for a poster . I wasn’t very creative . I wasn’t much of an artist . I’d be out of luck if I dared show up to Sister Carmel Mary’s class without a Christmas poster . Desperation time came and still I had no poster , and none in progress , and no ideas .
My older sister , Pat, stepped in . I think that Pat was in eighth grade at the time . She was artistic and creative and she volunteered to do a poster for me . It had a Christmas tree decorated with wrapped presents [ We’ll check the evidence to verify ] . The words there were : CHRISTMAS IS FOR GIVING , SO WE’RE GIVING …………
My name went onto the poster . It was Pat’s work , of course , though . I turned it in as mine . That , as it turned out , wasn’t a good idea .
Oh , did I mention that there was a school-wide poster contest ? Oh yeah . Guess what happened ? I’ll give you a couple of moments to mull it over .
Oh , did I mention that the winning poster would be silk-screened by a local artist , published in the local paper , and a copy placed in the front windows of all the little businesses around town ? Oh yeah .
So , there I was , my short , stupid little first grade self standing next to Sister Carmel Mary having my photo taken by a reporter from the local paper . “My” poster won . That was devastatingly embarrassing . I should have come clean , confessed , spilled the beans . Honestly , honesty is the best policy , after all . But , that ship had already sailed as I attempted to force a smile for the photographer . I just helplessly closed my tiny six- year old’s work-in-progress conscience and rode the sunami wave of shame and humiliation .
For weeks afterward , as I walked past those posters in the store windows , my annoying guardian angel would continually squeal in my ear : That’s not your poster , Danny . You know that , right ? You’re an imposter . You know that , right ? I was imprisoned within the unfamiliar walls of an unfortunate set of circumstances , but what could I do ? An adult world had invaded my close and comfortable child space and turned my helpless small self suddenly , incredibly , into an imposter- monster .
Here I sit writing about this all these years later . I somehow survived the bottomless depths of guilt over the incident . I survived the misguided praise that I don’t , to be honest , remember , but that I suppose that I got . I survived the outrage , as I remember it , from my sister who had been the creator of the winning poster , but who had been denied credit for it . I was the center of attention , holding up her work , having my name on it , and having my picture with her poster placed all over our little town . Ouch .
I got over the trauma of it , though , eventually ; but I never forgot it . I forget a lot of things , important things sometimes , but some things won’t ever be forgotten . Funny how that works .
……………CARNIVAL . CHRISTMAS IS FOR GIVING SO WE’RE GIVING A CARNIVAL . O.K. , the missing word is CARNIVAL . It was right on the tip of my tongue . Please review the evidence shown below . Apparently , I was the one who scrawled the ghost-written words onto the paper . I had forgotten that . And there you have it .