Editor's note: This is the first part of a continuing, fictional holiday tale that is running daily through Christmas. Parents are encouraged to read along with their children.
By MARY BETH WYKO
It all started a few weeks before Christmas. Phoebe Applegate remembered distinctly that it was Dec. 1 when she first realized something was wrong.
The day started out like any other. Phoebe's mother woke her up at 7 a.m. as usual, and, just as usual, Phoebe ate her breakfast, brushed her teeth and got ready for school. As her mom dropped her off at John Hanson Elementary School, she kissed Phoebe goodbye, just like any other day.
"Have a good day, Phoebe!" her mom called as Phoebe went to join her friends Brenna, Cate and Cienna as their parents dropped them off.
It was just like any other day for the second-grade class. Miss Dennis gave them a spelling test and the class did math worksheets. But as lunchtime approached, Phoebe started to get a funny feeling that there was something wrong - like there was something she was forgetting.
At lunch, she sat down with Brenna, Cate and Cienna. The girls emptied their lunchboxes on the table and each girl helped themselves from the pile. They had been doing this since the beginning of the school year, when Brenna decided that Cate's cheese sandwich was more appetizing than her own peanut butter and jelly. Phoebe had developed a fondness for the yogurt cups that Cienna's mom always put in her lunch, and Cate nearly always took the banana that Phoebe's mom packed.
"It is just me, or is there something weird about today?" Phoebe asked her friends.
Cate looked thoughtful as she unpeeled her banana. "It does feel kind of weird," she said.
"I feel like I did when I forgot to finish my book report," Brenna said. "Like there's something I'm supposed to remember."
Cienna looked concerned. "We already had our spelling test. Did we have another quiz today?"
Cate shook her head. "No, I don't think so. My dad only had me study spelling words last night. He wouldn't forget if we had another quiz."
When the bell rang and they went back to class, they still hadn't come up with anything they could have missed.
As Miss Dennis went over their science lesson for the day, Phoebe's mind wandered. Why couldn't she and her friends figure out what they'd forgotten? She stared at the calendar Miss Dennis had set up next to the white board and felt a tingle go down her spine. It was right in front of her
Suddenly, Phoebe shot her hand into the air.
"Phoebe?" Miss Dennis paused in her lesson. "What state of matter is represented by ice?"
"Miss Dennis, why don't you have Christmas on the calendar?" Phoebe blurted out.
Miss Dennis looked confused. "Christmas? Phoebe, what are you talking about?"
"Your calendar, Miss Dennis. It goes from Dec. 24 to Dec. 26."
The whole class began whispering as they realized the gravity of what Phoebe was saying.
"It was Christmas!" Cienna said to Cate. "We forgot about Christmas!" Brenna slapped her forehead with her hand. How could they have forgotten about Christmas?
Miss Dennis motioned to the class for silence. "Everyone, settle down please." She turned to Phoebe. "I don't know what this 'Christmas' is, but there's nothing wrong with the calendar. It goes from Dec. 24 to Dec. 26, just like it does every year."
"What about Dec. 25?" Brenna asked. "Where's Dec. 25?"
The entire second-grade class murmured in agreement.
Miss Dennis laughed. "Really, I don't know what's gotten into all of you. There's no such thing as Dec. 25. There never has been a Dec. 25. Dec. 25 doesn't exist."
"But how can we have Christmas without Dec. 25?" Phoebe asked.
"Phoebe, I do not know what you're talking about," Miss Dennis said, exasperation creeping into her voice.
"You know, Christmas!" Brenna said. "Santa and Christmas trees and Rudolph and presents?"
"Carols and lights and candy canes?" Cienna chimed in.
"Elves and holly and jingle bells?" Cate added.
"Class! Quiet down!" Miss Dennis had that look on her face that meant she was nearly out of patience. "For the last time, there is no such thing as Christmas. Now who can tell me if ice is a solid, a liquid or a gas?"
Phoebe, Brenna, Cate and Cienna all looked at each other. No such thing as Christmas? What was going on?
For the next part of this story, read Saturday's Tribune Chronicle.