It's funny what comes back to you. I'm sitting here this morning and for some reason I'm reminded of a morning long ago... almost 30 years ago now (God! I remember when I couldn't say that about anything).
I was in grade 8 and one of our assignments that year was a to write a children's Christmas story. My story, dimly remembered now, was about a werewolf named Dennis who either kidnapped Santa or stole his toys or both... in any case, he had it in for Christmas and then had a change of heart and pitched in to make Christmas a big success. Okay, it might be argued I was subconsciously cribbing from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but I think The Nightmare Before Christmas stole a march on me, too.
Somehow, through some sort of inter-school, inter-teacher secret handshake, it was decided that a handful of the best stories from the two grade 8 classes in my school would be read, by their authors, to some still-believing-in-Santa age kids at an elementary school about fifteen minutes away from ours. Mine was one of those chosen; so was that of my friend Nick. I don't remember now the nature of how we arrived at the school, but I remember being in a class with Nick with all these kids listening to us reading our stories, and then answering their questions, and the rounds of applause, and feeling for maybe the first time in our lives like doted-upon big shots. We were, like, on assignment, loaned out to another school and representing the best of our own, off on this lark while most of our classmates sat in their usual desks, scribbling away in their usual notebooks, listening to the usual teacher up at the usual blackboard. And it was all during that soothing, peaceful season on the lead-up to two weeks off – I mean, the glorious holiday season.
But what I principally remember was the trip back to our own school. Just me and Nick, wandering the slushy streets of the west end of Hamilton Mountain. Left to our own devices, unfettered, unescorted. Free, but trusted with that freedom. For once, we weren't being herded along like geese or sheep in a gaggle of other kids. And we made our way back to the school, kicking through the muck on Sanatorium, glorying in our mutual triumph; two boys in their first teenage year, still children unburdened by real responsibilities, but on the cusps of adulthood. It was a shining moment, a perfect little crystal that somehow still resonates with me. I don't even know why I'm thinking about it or what brought it up, but I'd give a lot to be back there for just a few hours.