Santa won't arrive for several more days, but I've already gotten the best Christmas gifts ever.
Yesterday I attended the first grade holiday concert at Bud's school. I was nervous, because the last school event I attended was the Kindergarten end-of-the-year celebration, which did not go as well as we'd hoped. The first grade event was much more grandiose, with children from four first-grade classrooms crowded on a stage, facing rows of smiling parents in the school's multipurpose room. I reminded myself of the lessons I'd learned last year, and tried to have realistic expectations about it. Daddy, Nana, and Papa stayed away, so as not to overwhelm our boy with too many people out of context. I left the camera at home, so Bud would feel less "on the spot." And I gave Bud several opportunities to let me know he'd like me to stay away as well, and let him have only "school people" at his school event. He assured me that he wanted me to come - though I had strict instructions that I was to JUST WATCH, and not sing along.
I arrived early and found a seat that was close (but not too close) and on the aisle in case I needed to make a quick exit. Once the parents were settled, three first grade classes - all but Bud's - filed in and found their places on stage. My mind briefly flashed to an image of frantic teachers delayed because they were trying to calm a hysterical Bud, but moments later his class rounded the corner into the room. His teacher looked breezy and carefree, and by her side was Bud, smiling, wearing his sound-blocking headphones rigged up with paper reindeer antlers. His aide pointed me out in the audience, and he dashed over for a hug. I wondered if he'd refuse to leave once he was with me, but he happily followed his aide to join the rest of his class on stage, where he waved and smiled and winked at me.
It was a lovely program. Each class sang two songs, then the entire ensemble sang a song together. Bud stayed on stage for the entire production. He didn't sing, but he listened, and conducted, and tapped sticks in perfect syncopation with the rest of his class. He didn't sit, as the other children did, but he stood to the side by his classmates, in a spot that gave him a good view of the other singers, a good view of me, and easy access to his teacher whenever he needed a hug. It was a resounding success.
At the conclusion of the program, we went back to Bud's classroom for juice and cookies. A mom I'd never met before stopped to tell me that her daughter Lily is very fond of Bud and "talks about him all the time." She said Lily had made him a Christmas present and would bring it to school the next day.
When Bud and I arrived at the classroom the following morning, Lily and her dad were waiting for us. Lily's dad suggested that Bud open his present so that I could take it home to make sure it didn't get broken. I helped Bud open a lovely glass ornament on which Lily had painted a snowman's face, and as the other children in the class gathered around to see it, I realized that Lily hadn't made an ornament for all of her friends. She'd only made one for Bud.
Bud was a bit overwhelmed by the hubbub and the break in routine, and was too distracted to take a long look at the ornament, but he did give Lily a prompted "thank you." I told Lily's dad how moved I was by her thoughtfulness and he replied, "Lily was really excited about making it for him." My heart soared.
Last night, Bud was delighted when I suggested that he write a thank-you note to Lily. I told him he could use the computer to write it, hoping that if he didn't have to struggle through handwriting he might write a lengthier note. My plan worked, and without any help from me, Bud wrote:
Dear Lily thank you for this presint
And thank you to Wow I seid
Oh no seid Lily
Msis PrGER luv his frend
Good frends seid Msis Prker
Which translates to:
Thank you for this present. And thank you, too!
"Wow," I said.
"Oh no," said Lily.
Mrs. Parker love his friend.
"Good friends," said Mrs. Parker.
Last night before bed, Bud and I prepared the packages he'd be taking with him for his last day of school before the holiday break: a tin of homemade cookies for his class party, cards and treat bags for his teachers and the special ed staff, and a large supply of Christmas crackers to share with all his friends at school. Bud was so caught up in the spirit of the season that he climbed out of bed before me, rustled around for a while, then burst into my room shouting "Get up, Mama! It's Christmas! It's presents downstairs!"
"No, Bud," I said. "It's not Christmas yet. It's a school day, remember? It won't be Christmas for a few more days."
"No," he corrected me. "It's me, Bud, give presents for you!"
Intrigued, I made my way downstairs to discover that he'd snuck down before I was out of bed, filled my stocking with items from around the house (spoons, a note card, one of his shirts), and placed a few treasures (a beach ball, a stuffed character) under the tree.
"Merry Christmas!" he shouted.
Yes. Merry Christmas.
The very, very merriest.