When Miss Dennis entered the second-grade classroom after recess, the students were all sitting perfectly still with their pencils and notebooks on their desks. There was no dawdling over playground gossip or poking around in desks for missing worksheets. Not a single student fidgeted or even whispered.
"My, aren't you all very well behaved today," Miss Dennis said.
"Now!" Phoebe hissed, and the entire second-grade class burst into song.
"DECK THE HALLS WITH BOUGHS OF HOLLY! FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!"
"What on earth?" said Miss Dennis.
"TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY! FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!"
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.
"All right, class," Miss Dennis said, raising her voice to be heard over the children's singing.
"FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!" the children sang desperately.
"ENOUGH!" Miss Dennis cried, clapping her hands. The children went silent. Cienna and Cate exchanged glances. Brenna gulped. Phoebe clasped her hands and looked at her teacher intently. Did she remember, or were they all in very big trouble?
"Now, I'm very pleased that you all enjoy music so much, but I would ask you to remember that music class is on Thursdays," Miss Dennis said sternly.
Brenna raised her hand.
"Miss Dennis, didn't you recognize the song?" Brenna asked hopefully.
Miss Dennis frowned. "No," she said. "Did you think that I would?"
Cienna raised her hand. "Doesn't it make you think of something you might have forgotten?" she asked.
"Something like Christmas?" Cate piped up.
Miss Dennis sighed and perched herself on the edge of her desk. "Look, I don't know where this idea of 'Christmas' came from, but you need to understand that it isn't real. Do you hear? Maybe it's a game you've been playing at recess, maybe it's something you saw on television, but I can't have these disruptions in my classroom anymore. I don't want to hear another word about 'Christmas,' is that clear?"
The children all nodded solemnly. Phoebe felt tears spring to her eyes, and behind her, she heard Cienna sniffle.
"It didn't work," Phoebe whispered to herself. "I can't believe it didn't work."
"There's still the cookies," Brenna whispered to Phoebe across the aisle.
Phoebe nodded, but secretly, she had thought that the Christmas carols were their best shot, and if that didn't work, she didn't think that baking cookies would bring back her parents' memories. After all, they didn't just bake cookies at Christmas time.
Nevertheless, with the holiday at stake, Phoebe was determined to try everything. So that day, after school, she approached her mother.
"What's up, sweetie?" her mother asked with a smile.
"I was wondering," Phoebe began. "Can we bake some Christmas cookies?"
"Christmas cookies?" her mom repeated with a blank look on her face. "Is this something you're doing at school, Phoebe? Some game you're playing with your friends?"
Phoebe exhaled in a huff. Why did all the grown-ups think this was just some game? Couldn't they see how serious this was?
"Can we please, Mom?" Phoebe pleaded. "Can we make buckeyes? Those are always my favorite."
Her mother gave her an odd look. "All right, Phoebe. If it's important to you, we'll make cookies."
As they worked, rolling the peanut butter balls and dipping them in chocolate, Phoebe attempted to jog her mother's memory by humming Christmas carols as they worked.
"What's that song you're humming, Phoebe?" her mother asked as Phoebe determinedly hummed "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
"Why? Do you recognize it?" Phoebe asked eagerly.
Again, her mother gave her an odd look. "No, but it sounds pretty. Did you learn that at school?"
"No, Mom," Phoebe said sadly. She was so upset she dropped the buckeye she was dipping completely into the chocolate.
"Uh, oh," her mother said, fishing it out for her and gently placing it on the waxed paper. "We'll split that one when it cools, OK?"
For the next part of this story, read Thursday's Tribune Chronicle.