Mom handed me a box as I left the house. Without peeking, I knew there were fifty Christmas cookies inside, one for each of my classmates. She warned, “Be careful. Don’t drop the box. Don’t tip it side to side, either. I want those tender cookies to be whole when you hand them out.”
I’d hardly been able to think about school work the last few days. Earlier in the week my teacher, Sister Florence, said the third-grade class would have a holiday party after today’s last recess. Ever since her announcement, waiting and anticipating the fun and goodies had made time creep past very slowly!
I rushed out the back door of our farmhouse and found Daddy patiently waiting in the car. His farm chore routine was designed to fit around busing his children to school each morning and to return to pick us up each afternoon. Today I wasn’t the last to the car. We had to wait for Betty.
A subdued buzz met me the minute I walked into the school. Everyone was excited. Sister Florence tried to guide us through spelling, arithmetic and phonics, but our minds had a hard time settling.
A cold wind during first recess made me and the other girls in my class huddle around the exhaust vent from the cafeteria, where warm air filled with lunch aromas prompted us to talk about the goodies we’d brought to school. We knew there would be several fudges, two homemade caramels, divinity, chocolate cookies, ginger snaps and taffy to savor.
Hot lunch was chili that day. Even when I wasn’t excited, I didn’t like tomato-flavored soups. My picky, overly-excited belly only allowed me to eat half the bowl. For the after-lunch recess, the sisters chased students away from the warm air vent, insisting, “Run around! It’s good for you. The fresh air will make you think better.”
During art, we were noisier than usual. Two boys who sat near me were good friends of mine. We whispered as we worked. The boxes of goodies that almost every child had brought lined the window sill and seemed to mock our efforts to be productive.
During last recess, we didn’t need to be told to run around. We were all so excited, we couldn’t have held still if we’d wanted to. It helped that the chill wind had dropped and the temperature gone up. We lined up and took turns sliding on an icy spot in our parking lot playground.
The end of recess bell found every student lined up, eager to troop back into the school. As chattering and giggling filled our classroom, Sister Florence sighed and said, “We might as well start the party now. Pass out your treats one at a time, alphabetically.”
My last name started with an A, so I jumped to my feet and found my box on the window sill. A quick peek inside revealed the frosted cut-out cookies were mostly intact. I traveled up and down the rows handing them out.
When I sat down, Jane, my classmate jumped up and began passing out her treats. Most of what came to me, I gobbled down. Toffee, taffy, fudge and more fudge. It all tasted so good. Until it suddenly-didn’t.
The room began to feel too hot. My belly hurt so badly that I wished I was home.
One of my classmates shouted, “Sister Florence!”
Sister replied, “Oh for heaven’s sake! Push the wastepaper basket to her.”
I was very sick. Like the old faithful geyser in Yellowstone Park, I erupted. Mostly in the basket. Soon the room stopped feeling so hot and my belly felt a little better. But I had no desire to eat another piece of candy, especially not fudge! Sister told the two boys who sat near me and were my friends to clean up the mess. They looked disgusted and I instinctively knew that our friendship had ended.
The boxes we brought our treats in became our take-home boxes for what we didn’t eat. Mom had come with Daddy to pick us up after school. She brightly peered into my box and picked out a square of chocolate fudge. After biting into it, she enthused, “That was really creamy, not a bit sugary like mine. Do you remember which classmate gave this to you? I’d like the recipe.”
Holding back a gag, I murmured, “Uh-uh.”
Turning to look at me, Mom knowingly said, “Oh!”