When I was in the second grade my teacher came up with an end-of-the-week ritual in which the class gathered at the front of the room, held hands and shared aloud those things for which we were especially thankful. It was an exercise designed to fill our hearts with gratitude, but filled the teacher with regret the day that Davy Williams* confessed his feelings for fellow seven-year-old Kelly Jones*.
Davy was a transfer student who joined our class at the end of October. He was a tall boy with a sandy mop top and before he could turn in his lunch money or sharpen a No. 2 pencil, he fell head over heels for Kelly, who was my best friend at the time.
It was easy to see why he was smitten. With her long blonde hair and clear blue eyes Kelly was not only the most popular girl in the second grade, but she was by far the prettiest. Unfortunately Kelly didn’t know Davy was alive, that is until the Wednesday before Thanksgiving when we assembled for a special holiday version of our Sharing Circle.
Although there were no hard-and-fast rules about what we could and could not say during this event, our teacher expected us to take it seriously, offer up a heartfelt intention, and be respectful of one another. While little kids are not known for their deep philosophical thoughts, we managed to come up with a motley assortment of responses ranging from the superficial to the significant.
There were always one or two students who could be counted on to rattle off something eloquent and profound while making the rest of us look bad. (Usually the same kids who ruined the grade curve for everyone.) There were also a few wise guys who incorporated a lot of crude humor in their thoughts (seriously, who is grateful for the ability to belch?) and naturally, there were those blatant suck-ups who waxed poetically about the school, teacher and principal in hopes that their abject appreciation would win them a few extra brownie points. (It never worked.)
And then there was Davy, who after weeks of pining over the girl of his dreams, decided to do something about it. I have no idea if he actually planned this caper or if he acted on impulse but when his turn came, he didn’t say he was thankful for anything normal like frozen pizza or his favorite sports team. To everyone’s surprise he blurted out, “I am thankful for Kelly Jones.”
Kelly turned a brilliant shade of scarlet and her hand clenched around mine like a vice. The room erupted in whoops and catcalls you expect from such public declaration of affection and it took the teacher several minutes to settle the class so that we could continue. As we worked our way around the room, everyone waited with bated breath to find out how Kelly would respond. Would she reciprocate Davy’s feelings or would she break his heart?
“Kelly?” The teacher prompted. “What are you thankful for?
Kelly squared her shoulders, put her hands on her hips and glared daggers at the lovesick boy across the circle from her. “I’m thankful for my cat,” she snapped.
Davy and Kelly never got together and we never had another Sharing Circle after that incident. Officially, the teacher said we lacked time in our schedule but personally, I think she hated to see her simple gratitude session segue into a second grade soap opera. Nonetheless, it remains one of my favorite holiday memories and the reason I continue to be very thankful for a precious thing called puppy love.
*Names changed to protect the innocent.