The teacher watched from the doorway, keeping an eye on the students who had already bought what they wanted as well as the students still actively looking at all the trinkets and tokens on sale. Two girls stopped to show her what they bought on their way out of the room, and she managed to finish her mostly-sincere compliments before being distracted by some fidgety, nine-year-old boys.
This was not one of Mrs. Wood’s favorite school activities. It was the annual PTA Christmas sale. Every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, they cancelled all library visits for one week and set up the tables with coffee mugs, figurines and other miscellany that would attract the attention and money of the elementary children. Most were given money by their parents to buy Christmas gifts. Others bought for themselves. But for her, it simply meant that she was on duty during a period she didn’t usually have to spend with her students.
One by one, she counted the children as they passed her. Only six more remained in the sale, four more, three, then only one. She looked up to see only Tommy left.
As she watched, the little boy wound his way slowly through the tables for a third time. Clutching his money tightly in his left hand, he paused occasionally, reaching out to touch an object or turn a box for a better view.
“Tommy, hurry up, please. We need to be getting back to class.”
“Okay, Mrs. Wood. I’ll be right there.” He looked back at his options, but did not speed up his search. Reaching the cash register, still without anything in his hands, he began a fourth trip around the room.
Mrs. Wood sighed to herself. “Tommy, you need to choose something this time, or you won’t be able to buy anything.”
Tommy nodded and moved down the table. He passed the various trinkets: tie tacks, pendant necklaces, water pistols, and the only remaining miniature Slinky. He stepped back from the tables and looked around, chewing on his bottom lip. One of the PTA mothers came over to help.
“Who are you looking to buy for, Tommy?” she asked as she crouched down next to him.
“Okay, well, we have lots of things that your dad would like. Over here are these little tie tacks and, of course, you could get him a coffee mug. We have three new designs this year. Or maybe he’d like one of these fun ties. What do you think?”
Tommy sighed and shook his head. “No, I guess I’ll just have to keep looking,” he said as he turned towards the door.
Mrs. Wood was waiting for him. “Didn’t you find anything, Tommy?”
“No.” He shook his head sadly as he shoved the wrinkled bills back in his front pocket.
“There wasn’t anything there your dad would like?”
Tommy looked over his shoulder and then up at his teacher. “I guess so. But I don’t want something that everyone’s dad would like. I want something that’s like my dad. And I couldn’t see him in any of those things.”
Mrs. Wood smiled. “That’s a great way to look at it, Tommy. And don’t worry,” she began to steer him down the hallway toward the rest of the class, “with that idea, I know you’ll find something your dad will absolutely love.”
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