Since I taught history through storytelling… I was always on the lookout for children and young adult writers who wrote historical fiction and non-fiction for my students.
It didn’t take me long to discover Eve Bunting… one of the must recognized and award winning children’s authors. At 94 today, she has been married for over 50 years to her beloved husband… she was born in Northern Ireland but has lived in the states her adult life ( Pasadena, California) and still writes and lectures at UCLA.
Here are just a few of her stories that I used while teaching…
Every year for 30 years … as I began my search for the perfect Christmas Eve Story … I soon realized that a Christmas story didn’t have to have been originally written for Christmas.
If the story contained all the right ” ingredients ” ( love, forgiveness, hope, faith and a potential sprinkle of magic) it could easily be turned into a beautiful Christmas story. Just add a new setting and time.
One Christmas Eve… many years ago, I did this with Eve Bunting’s story about homelessness in America for which she won the students’ ” Heal the World Award” .. her most coveted achievement because the award came from the young students whom she wrote the book for…
In Fly Away Home… a little boy tells the story of how he and his dad live at an airport since their mother died and they have no home. He never introduces himself or his father by name. We learn no more about any events leading up to this homeless life lived in an airport.
But we do discover how they have learned the importance of blending in -both wear blue jeans, blue shirts and jackets… they sleep sitting up and moving from airport to airport. They have made friends with other homeless individuals and families… but also learning from their mistakes when they were caught.
On weekends… an elderly homeless woman watches the little boy since his dad has a janitorial job in a nearby large company building. The little boy takes back empty luggage carts for .50 apiece. He is saving too… for the day when he and his dad can get an apartment like when his mom was living.
It was on such a weekend that something happened that brought the little boy hope for a new life. A little brown bird got into the main terminal and couldn’t get out. It would throw itself at the glass panting and then perch on the girder… one wing hanging limply.
The little boy silently encouraged the little bird…” Don’t give up… please don’t give up! And then one day…in one instant it happened… a sliding door was open and the bird slipped through… the little boy watched it rise… it’s wing seemed okay. ” Fly bird ” the little boy whispered” Fly Away Home.” ( The little boy concludes that though he couldn’t hear it… he knew it was singing… nothing made him as happy as that bird!)
At the end of the story as the little boy watches people meeting loved ones and calling out ” I missed you so much and It’s So Good to be home” the little boy admits he gets angry… he wants to push them and shout” Why do you have homes when we don’t? What makes you so special? He just wants to cry… afraid he and his dad will be stuck there forever.
***I remember when it got to this last part of the original story… I stopped and looked around and there was a mixture of tears and sad’ sweet smiles. So I added… if you don’t mind giving me a little storyteller ” freedom” on this magical night… then here is my ending.
Tonight is the night of miracles… it is the night the ANGELS sing… and hope reentered the world … a gift for every man, woman, and child. So… here we go!
It is Christmas Eve and the little boy watches as one passenger, a man, runs past him as fast as he can to make the last flight out in time to get home for Christmas. He doesn’t realize he has dropped a Christmas box .. a present for his family.
Before the father can stop him … and remind him not to stand out-blend in … the little boy has picked up the box and is yelling at the man scurrying to the platform to board… the father can’t catch up… just as the man is checking in the little boy… breathlessly… taps him on the shoulder and gasps … ” You dropped this mister!”
The man’s eyes widen as he sees what it is… a very special Santa gift for his little boy who appears to be about the same age… the father catches up apologizing for his son… but the passenger stares at both the boy and father and says quietly ” Your son saved Christmas for me.”
As the steward is hurrying the man on to the plane he reaches out and puts something in the father’s hand and then disappears inside the plane.
When the father opens his hand… three crisp one hundred dollar bills lie in it. Christmas morning shows the little boy walking out of the airport with his father to their new home they had saved for over two years… they had their down payment for a tiny apartment connected to the company where the father works as a janitor… the little boy is singing loudly and happily!
So until tomorrow Merry Christmas or as my Swedish friends said in their Christmas card that just arrived … God Jul!!!
Today is my favorite day-Winnie the Pooh
I remember when I finished my last Christmas Eve Story ( a year ago Christmas Eve) Don Oswald, member of Dorchester Presbyterian, came up to me and said ” Do you know what my favorite Christmas Eve story was … that you ever told? The one about the father-son living at the airport” Thanks Don for reminding me of that beautiful story!