Special Memories of Special Students at Christmas

Dear Reader:

A little clue about what my Christmas Eve Story is going to be about this year…the love between a teacher and his/her students at Christmas.

Have you ever wondered if your favorite teacher still has that special Christmas ornament you made or bought for him/her so many years ago as a child or youth? My guess would be a resounding “Yes” …at least based on my own personal experiences and memories when I place ornaments on the Christmas tree each year.

I was fortunate to form a friendship with Gloria Houston, the popular children’s author of so many of my favorite stories…particularly the most memorable Christmas story –The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. 

I was invited to Ruthie’s 95th birthday in Waynesville, NC that Brooke and I attended to meet both Gloria and Ruthie in person.

Then Gloria and I started  corresponding by snail mail and email for several years until her untimely death three years ago to a rare cancer.

Each Christmas I would send her a photo of my Christmas tree with Ruthie the angel perched on top (based and named for her mother, Ruthie…the main character in the Christmas story.) *The first Christmas after Gloria’s death I sent the photo as usual… before remembering she was gone…she had died that March before Christmas.

One of our last correspondences dealt with Ruthie’s death…just weeks before her 100th birthday and now her own personal fight with this rare form of an environmental auto-immune cancer. She was growing weaker faster than she had hoped but she still had one more story in her.

It was a short story for a magazine that she sent me a link to…about a special tradition a teacher in a small town had each Christmas Eve as the memories of her former students returned to visit her. Gloria told me when she sent the story that she always defined herself as  “first, last and always, a teacher.”

In the title photo…Evans Townsend sent me this railroad lantern that I light each Christmas. Evans was in one of my first classes that I taught in the early years. He adored history, along with me, and he was one of those special students a teacher never forgets.

A few years ago we made contact again and he wrote me a long letter updating me on his life and his passionate career working with railroads out west. Soon after this correspondence the railroad lantern appeared as a gift to me from him.

On one of his return visits home…he and Frances Townsend, his mother who taught history at Summerville High School,  took a photo and sent me of the family at St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope in Trust, NC. How very special to share my personal epiphany at this chapel, years ago, with a special student and good friend in his mother!

So until tomorrow…“Every child you teach has a story waiting to be heard…and perhaps you are the one chosen to hear it.” 

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

*Yesterday I talked about the crazy weather that has spring and summer flowers blooming in December…including my double-blossom pink azaleas. I found the perfect place to display them…in one of Honey’s beautiful flower vases she creates.

*Just two more days until the Christmas Art Show that Anne and her Ya Artists are putting on…mark it on your calendar…this will be a big weekend!


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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2 Responses to Special Memories of Special Students at Christmas

  1. Rachel Edwards says:

    Your azeleas look beautiful in the vase that Honey gave you. I still share your story about Gloria and Ruthie…one of my favorie Christmas books.


    • Becky Dingle says:

      It will always be my favorite Christmas story for so many reasons…not the least that Tommy, in the second grade the year it came out, had fallen in love with the story with Mrs. Ward reading a few pages each day to her children before Christmas holidays…when I pulled it out Christmas Eve…Tommy yelled in delight…”That is the Christmas story my teacher has been reading us…the bestest in the world.!” It was…and is!


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