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Never make promises before daylight

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By Bill Evans

 

   

I was so awake, lying beneath all those double blankets and quilts on the bed in my unheated bedroom. 

The house was dark and my flannel pajamas had kept me toasty warm during one of winter’s coldest nights 

I couldn’t see outside but I heard my parents starting to stir. After moving one of my feet about a inch and finding a cool spot, I figured I’d join ’em. 

I had no intention of burning daylight, though it meant making a commitment to put my cold feet on the floor.

It was Friday, but this wasn’t just any Friday. 

After today, school would be out for the Christmas holidays. 

I slid my feet around of the floor, feeling for my scattered bedroom shoes. 

When I put them on and stood up, it was so cold, I might as well been barefooted. 

I hightailed it across the cold hall and into the upstairs kitchen where the warmth of a pot bellied coal heater brought instant relief. 

Daddy, who was enjoying a cup of coffee and nibbling on a piece of leftover Thanksgiving fruitcake, was kind of surprised to see me standing there. 

He was usually gone when I made my first appearance of the day. 

Mama was flipping through the newspaper while Grady Cole was talking about farm stuff. 

“Son, what’s got you up so early, with it being a school day?” Daddy asked.

Before I could get two words out, Mama answered the question for me.

“It’s the last day of school until New Year’s,” she said.  

Now, the significance of the occasion wasn’t lost on me. 

I had to be on the best of behavior since next week was  

 

Christmas. 

I was smart enough to know Santa Claus had a list of good boys and bad boys. From chores to being polite, and using good manners, I was doing my level best to make the first list.

It was sorta like they told us in Sunday school.

We have to believe in Jesus, mend our bad ways and help others ’cause it’s the right thing to do to make it inside the pearly gates. 

For now, Dec. 25, was a lot closer than heaven . 

Hopefully, doing my best at Christmas will improve my chances of getting a grin from St. Peter one of these days. 

I was on top of things, too. I told Daddy I’d shine up his work shoes when he came home.

Of course, I was keeping the coal scuttles full and chopping enough rich pine kindling to do several days. 

I promised to help Mama spruce up the dining room and downstairs kitchen for Christmas.

“It sure would be great if you were this sweet all year long,” she said.

I wasn’t finished, though. To add a little icing to the cake, I promised Daddy that I’d sweep all the leaves from the sidewalks this afternoon.

He seemed to be impressed with my willingness, but wondered if I could stick with it.

“Son, you might be biting off more than you can chew,” he said, before heading out the door for the cotton mill.

I had no idea what that meant.

Gosh, I was getting restless. I was dressed for school and it was still too early to leave. After all, we only lived three houses away from the front doors of Chesterfield Avenue Grammar School. 

With the war going on, my school teachers had to walk and three of them lived nearby. I sat in the warmth of Mama’s front bedroom and watch school teachers and students pass by on their way to class.

It was hard to miss fifth grade teacher Mr. Joe Connors, Sr., who was walking on the opposite sidewalk.  

All the fellas in his class tell me he has a thing about spelling long words.

I was itching to pack up and hit the trail when Mrs. Tennant and Mrs. Coulbourne strolled down the near sidewalk and past our house.

Bless Pete, those two sure have got an arm load of books for it to be the last day of school for the calendar year.  

I thought about running out and easing their burdens, since Santa Claus was watching. However, I let the opportunity slip by. 

I knew my buddies would give me a lot of ribbing about being a teacher’s pet. I’ll just have to figure out some other good deed which won’t be so obvious to my friends.

Goodness gracious it’s cold. I thought my ears and nose would fall off. 

Boy, I sure am glad my walk is a short one.

Our principal, Mr. C.D. Williams, was standing just inside the doorway when I entered the building to make sure no one would be running up and down the halls.

For some reason, it was an unusually quiet Friday morning, almost as if a magic holiday spell had been cast over the two-story school house.

None of the fellas were hollering, shoving, or pulling the pigtails of a might-be girlfriend. 

Everybody was seated before the bell rang and the classroom doors shut. 

About 9:30 a.m., we all stood up and marched down to the auditorium for chapel. We called chapel since Mr. Williams read from the Bible. Most of us closed our eyes while he prayed for the war to end.

To tell the truth, there’s not much regular school stuff going on today.

We did a couple of math exercises ad wrote some sentences to keep us on our toes, but nothing to affect our grades,

I think our teachers are as anxious as us to get out for the holidays. 

At lunchtime, we went to the cafeteria on the second floor. It wasn’t fancy or nothing. Several of the daddies had gotten together and built picnic tables and benches. Some of the mothers came in that day and fixed us a hot meal of vegetable soup and corn bread.

Lunch took twice as long as usual and time was dragging.

That afternoon, I gave Miss Charlotte Jones her Christmas gift, which was a real pretty lace handkerchief from Robinson-Clouds.

She seemed pleased, which I figured was worth about one more point on the good boy list. 

About 2 p.m., the bell rang. School was officially out till after New Year’s Daa. For some reason, Mr. Williams wasn’t in the hall that afternoon. I reckon he was just smart enough to sit in his office and let the school building empty itself. 

Nobody needed his help scatter us to the four winds that day. 

Now that school is out, I can focus on the task at hand, which is living up to do promises I made before daylight. 

I gotta get home and start sweeping up leaves.