Fourth grade was very good to me. In fact, I think it was the best year of my life.
Old Lady Puberty had not yet arrived with her bagful of dirty tricks. My skin was still clear, my body uncomplicated. I had a growing collection of Bonne Bell Lipsmackers, a Shaun Cassidy album, and a few fourth-grade boyfriends. (Not that we ever touched or spoke or even made eye contact, but whenever I passed them notes that said, DO YOU LIKE ME?...they always checked the "yes" box.)
Life was sweet and simple. Until one December morning when it got even better...
Remember that song we all used to sing "Joy to the world, the school burned down and all the teachers died" ? Well, back in 1979, for a few lucky Salt Lake City elementary students, fantasy became reality. Sort of.
I mean, no one died. And nothing burned. But the pipes did burst and the building did flood. AND SCHOOL WAS CANCELLED FOR THE WHOLE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS VACATION! Joy to the World!
Those of us who had been doubting the existence of Santa Claus were true believers now.
(I must confess that as I write this gleeful memory, my mother-heart now aches empathetically for the unfortunate moms of these lucky elementary students. Especially my own angel Momma. She had six kids under ten years of age, including my newborn baby brother. Only two of us were in school all day, with one half-day kindergartener. I am sure an extra school-free week was not her idea of a fun Christmas surprise.
All I can say is... Sorry Mom. I think you are a much stronger person for having endured this trial. And I just know up in heaven there is a great big Swiss chalet with your name tole-painted upon it!)
Luckily, at the time, I was a typically self-centered child and could not see anything but holly-jolly happiness in my immediate future. There were snowhills (sledding!), errands (shopping!) and Christmas goodies (eating!) as far as the eye could see.
It was a glorious Christmas miracle.
In fact, the only grey cloud in that wonderful week was missing our school choir performance on the Singing Christmas Tree at the Cottonwood Mall. As a serious musician (and shopper-in-training!), I had looked forward to this all season long. Since we were not able to practice at school, the show could not go on...
...at least that is what my parents told me. Later Mom confessed that the show HAD indeed gone on. Without me. She just had somehow not been able to drag all her half-dozen children to the crowded mall to watch me sing "Silver Bells" in two-part harmony.
I was crushed at the time. But my wise mother offered me comfort in a way that changed the course of my life forever. She let me make my own batch of chocolate chip cookies! By myself! (To this day, whenever something bad happens, I can be found drowning my sorrows in cookie dough. Thanks, Mom!)
Even with such a great disappointment to overcome, I managed to enjoy myself snowin' and blowin' up bushels of fun. Santa came on the 25th and left a pair of real wood-soled clogs, which were the height of Salt Lake fourth-grade fashion at the time, and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
But that week off school was the best Christmas gift a nine-year-old could hope for!