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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Lights (10/30/08)

TITLE: A Season of Teaching Smiles
By George Parler


“Mr. Michaels.”

Man . . . I don’t need this right now. Turning down another grocery aisle, Jonathan pretends not to hear his name called.

“Jonathan Michaels . . . Don’t you walk away from me. I know you hear me.” She pursues.

“Hello, Miss Singletary. I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.” Jonathan forces a smile.

“Haven’t changed in that respect, have you?” She raises her head, looking through her bi-focal glasses. “As I recall, you didn’t pay much attention in class either.”

“Yes . . . I had some problems with school, Miss Singletary.” He looks away with a mixture of aggravation and embarrassment.

“Problems? As I recall, you quit school.” Determined, she regains eye contact.

“Yes ma’am, I quit. You’re right. And you were right back then, when you said I would never amount to anything. I drive a truck across country for a living and it’s not my truck. I didn’t become a lawyer like Bobby Timmons or a doctor like Harold Johnson. I’m just a low life truck driver living with my mistakes, trying to do the best I can for my family. I’m sorry for being a disappointment, Miss Singletary. I’ve seen the light but it was many years too late. I’m sorry; now if you will excuse me...”

“LIGHTS.” Her eyes widen. “Good heavens, Jonathan, with all of your wallowing in self-pity I almost forgot why I stopped you.”

“I don’t understand.” He shakes his head.

“Exactly, now for once pay attention . . . please?” Her raised eyebrows wait for his reply.

He slumps his shoulders in reluctant surrender. “Yes.”

“First of all, Jonathan, I was wrong about you. I have seen the light also, and it was through your beautiful daughter, Susan.”

“Susan? What does -”

She interrupts him.

“You’re not paying attention, Jonathan. You pay attention with your ears not your mouth.”

Jonathan nods his head in agreement.

She continues, “As you know, Jonathan, I retired from teaching school many years ago. However, I do substitute from time to time and have found the pleasure of your daughter in my classes. Susan has become one of my favorite pupils.

The other day I had the students write a paper on their most favorite Christmas gift of all time and then read it before the class. All the stories were wonderful as they shared their favorite gifts. Some talked of stereos, computers, motor cycles and the like. But Susan’s story was different. It touched me so deeply that I made a copy of it, which I have right here.”

She fumbles through her purse.

“Here we are.” She hands the paper to Jonathan. “Here, you must read this.”

Jonathan unfolds the paper and begins to read silently. He hears Susan’s voice in his head as he reads . . .

My most favorite gift of all is seeing my dad smile around Christmas. He has always loved Christmas, especially the lights. I don’t know why but they do something to him. I wish I knew what he is thinking but to see him smile is enough for me.

Every year he takes us to Hodges Gardens to see the Christmas lights. It’s the same old lights every year and every time we go we do the same old things. We drive by the lake to see the lights that go all the way around it. Then we drive to the big water fountain and sit there and watch the water spray up and change colors with the lights. After that we drive around to the big green house and go inside. They have Christmas lights everywhere inside with all the plants.

When I see the lights I think of my dad. I guess the lights allow him to forget about everything and remember the things that make him happy. He works so hard for us and tries to give us nice things. But of all those things none of them compare to when I see my wonderful dad surrounded by the lights of Christmas.

Jonathan struggles to hold back his tears.

“You are a wonderful father, Jonathan. That’s something no salary of any size can make. Of all the stories in that class, Susan was the only one to speak of her father. You have much to smile about. There is a wonderful light named Susan, who loves her father deeply. Merry Christmas, Jonathan.”

A tear falls to the paper . . . as Jonathan smiles.

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This article has been read 882 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mary Alice Bowles11/08/08
I saw the FATHERS love in this story. Thank you!!
Carole Robishaw 11/10/08
This is a very good story about a very special light. Good job, I enjoyed this. I wish more parents could receive this commendation of a job well done.
Celeste Ammirata11/11/08
Wow. You had me from the first word. At first, I felt bad for the dad, about how he felt about himself. But, through the teacher admitting her mistake, and the words of his daughter, I felt the load lift from his shoulders. Great Writing!
Joanne Sher 11/11/08
Beautiful characterization, and wonderful dialog. Excellent message as well.
Stephanie Craig11/11/08
What a sweet story. I could feel his embarrassment and shame as I read through it. Then I felt it being lifted from me as I read the little girl's story. Great job drawing me in.
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/12/08
This is a beautiful story. I love the character of the father and how it's revealed through his daughter's writing. The bossy teacher made me smile!
T. F. Chezum11/12/08
Great story. I liked how you unfolded the father character in the daughter's writing.
Mariane Holbrook 11/13/08
No wonder you placed high on this entry! It's truly beautiful and somehow I feel it's autobiographical in that your daughter is very likely to look at you in that light. What a special entry and what a special father this person is!
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/13/08
See...what a great writer you are! Congratulations!
Marlene Austin12/04/08
What a precious gift your "crusty" old teacher gave your MC. Excellent character portrayals. Wonderful story. Wish this would happen more often in real life for all of those (us) just trying to do our best. :)
Anne Linington01/04/09
I can fully understand why this gained a "Highly commended" . I like the use of italics for the
speech. I may try it.