Editor's note: This part of a continuing, fictional holiday tale that is running daily through Christmas. Parents are encouraged to read along with their children.
Normally, recess at John Hanson Elementary School was a noisy affair, with kids running and playing all sorts of games as they enjoyed a brief period of fresh air and sunshine. But on the afternoon of Dec. 2, a hush had descended as all the younger children were huddled together at the far end of the playground, whispering about how Christmas was missing.
At the center of the group was Phoebe, Brenna, Cienna and Cate. Since they were the ones who had discovered that all the adults had forgotten about Christmas, the students at Hanson had unofficially put them in charge of the investigation.
Phoebe called the group to order, silencing the whispers for the moment.
"We all know why we're here," she said. "All of the grown-ups say that Christmas doesn't exist. We need to find a way to make them remember."
"Our mom loves Christmas," said Tyler, Cienna's younger brother. He was in kindergarten with Brenna's brother, Owen, and Cate's sister, Sofia. Their youngest brother, Dimitri, was still in preschool. "She has all the decorations out before Thanksgiving even. But when Cienna and I went to look for the lights and things, they were gone."
"It's the same at my house, too," Cate said. "Even that funny-looking reindeer Sofia made isn't there anymore."
"It's not funny-looking!" Sofia said indignantly. "But it is gone."
The other children murmured in agreement. All over town, kids had been poking in attics and basements for signs of Christmas decor and had found nothing. Not even a speck of tinsel remained.
"All right, so all the decorations are gone," Phoebe said. "What else could we do to remind the grown-ups about Christmas?"
"Maybe we could ask to bake Christmas cookies," Owen said. "Our Grandma Zard makes really good cookies. She lets Brenna and me help her roll out the sugar cookies."
"My mom makes those peanut butter ones with the chocolate candies in the middle," Cienna said.
Brenna smacked her lips. "I love those ones!" she said.
"That's a good idea," Phoebe said. "We'll ask our parents to help us bake Christmas cookies. But what about people like Miss Dennis? We can't bake cookies here at school."
The children fell silent, with the exception of Cate, who was humming to herself.
"What are you doing?" Sofia hissed, nudging Cate in the ribs.
"I was only humming 'Jingle Bells,'" Cate protested.
"That's it!" Phoebe shouted. "Christmas carols! Everybody, start singing 'Jingle Bells'!"
Obediently, the children all started singing.
"What are those kids doing?" a sixth grader asked her friend as they walked past the younger children.
"A 'one-horse open sleigh'?" the other sixth grader questioned. "Have you ever heard of that before?"
"Kids make up some weird stuff," the first sixth grader said, and her friend nodded in agreement.
After they finished their song, the children looked around at each other in satisfaction.
"This is how we'll make the grown-ups remember Christmas," Phoebe said triumphantly. "We'll sing Christmas carols! After recess, when we get back to class, we'll all sing, and maybe it will make Miss Dennis and the other teachers realize that Christmas was missing."
They decided that the kindergarteners would sing "Jingle Bells," the first-graders would sing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," the second-graders would sing "Deck the Halls," and the third-graders would sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
The children had no sooner finalized their plan when the bell rang, signalling the end of recess. As they scurried back to their classrooms, Brenna squeezed Phoebe's hand.
"I just know this is going to work," she said.
"I hope so," Phoebe said. "Christmas is at stake!"
For the next part of this story, read Wednesday's Tribune Chronicle.