"A Chalkboard for Christmas"

Gloria Bennet shares a story about a child's chalkboard and a Christmas memory.

Gloria Bennet shares a story about a child's chalkboard and a Christmas memory.

At Christmastime, my mind often drifts back to my childhood and the magic of the season. I remember the live nativity scenes at a local church, South Georgia's downtowns dressed up with dangling Christmas lights and showy evergreens, and a few of the toys my siblings and I discovered under the tree on Christmas morning—a Lite-Brite, a telescope, Milton Bradley's nerve-racking Operation game, a Mrs. Beasley doll, a nurse's uniform and bag with fake stethoscope and pills, a set of red stilts, and a BB gun (it was not a Daisy Red Ryder, and I did not shoot anyone's eye out). 

Gloria Bennet of Dawsonville, Georgia remembers receiving a simple chalkboard—a gift form her stepfather, James. Indeed, she still has this priceless keepsake. It hangs in her office as a symbol of lifelong learning. Most of all, the chalkboard holds a beautiful Christmas memory from her past.

Gloria submitted "A Chalkboard for Christmas" to my Project Keepsake story contest, and her story received honorable mention from judging panel. One of the judges commented, "The writer's unwavering fascination for words came through to me. I love that the contributor remembers the moment of falling in love with letters and words and that the chalkboard has become a conduit for those special memories."

Enjoy Gloria's story!

I was four years old when my mother married my stepfather, James. I moved in with them in late September and saw snow for the first time in my life. The three of us spent our first Christmas together in North Florida, however, at my maternal grandparents’ house near the coast.

When we arrived, a houseful of relatives and an array of delicious aromas greeted us at the door; the smell of cinnamon, brown sugar, pumpkin, and vanilla led us straight to the kitchen. The following evening was Christmas Eve, and several of the adults packed all of us children into my grandfather’s station wagon after dinner and drove us downtown to the park at Lake Alice. As soon as I stepped out of the car, I looked up into the heavens, where I searched for a sleigh led by eight tiny reindeer. There was no sign anywhere of Santa Claus, but the sky was especially beautiful that night. A multitude of stars shivered against a backdrop of darkness, and clouds drifted slowly across what seemed an endless expanse of constellations.

As I was led down the weathered narrow pier, my hand held firmly by my mother’s, the moon’s reflection caught my attention as it danced on the surface of the water. A familiar medley of Christmas carols drifted towards us from one of the houses that lined the shores. But the words and music were accompanied this time by the familiar steady humming of tree frogs and crickets. A floating wooden dock in the middle of the lake had been decorated with a live tree and the multicolored Christmas lights were beautiful. I am at a loss now trying to figure out how they ran electricity to the middle of the lake to light up that tree, but the sight of it is a memory I have always cherished.

When we returned to my grandparents’ house later that evening, we were excited to see that Santa Claus had come early, while we were out, and had left brightly colored packages for everyone. In addition to what Santa had left for me, James had given me a chalkboard, which came with a colorful copy of the alphabet mounted along its base.

I had no real interest in the chalkboard at first. I preferred the lovely new dark-haired doll that came with a trunk full of handsome outfits with matching accessories instead. By the time we made the long return trip home several days later, however, I had grown tired of changing the doll’s clothes and was ready to amuse myself with something different. So my stepfather sat down with me after dinner one evening in late December and showed me what I could do with a piece of chalk, a copy of the alphabet, and the chalkboard.

With an unsteady hand, I copied the first three letters of the alphabet and became absorbed in the process. I began to form letters, just like the ones that made up the pages of my favorite storybooks. Before long, I was writing three letter words, like cat, dog, and box.

Throughout elementary school I often lined up my dolls and teddy bears against the walls in my bedroom and imitated my favorite teachers. In my world of pretend, they became my students, and I taught them how to read and write.

It’s been many years now since the Christmas I received that chalkboard, but I sometimes think it played a vital part in shaping my destiny. I’m a fan of lifelong learning, and I still enjoy teaching others to read and write. I’m a college professor these days, and my students are young adults, not dolls or teddy bears, but I enjoy the written word as much as I ever did.

And I still own that chalkboard; it hangs on the wall in my office. It has become a symbol of my unwavering fascination with words.
— Gloria Bennet, 2014

 Gloria is an accomplished writer. She writes poetry and prose and is a Pushcart Prize nominee for poetry. Her work has appeared in various literary journals and reviews. She teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at the University of North Georgia, where she is also the academic coordinator for writing and publication. She also serves on the Board of Directors and is a former President for the Georgia Writers Association. She is the current President of the Southern Literary Festival Association Executive Council. She recently published her first children's book, Summers at Howard Creek.

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Thanks, Gloria, for sharing your lovely keepsake story with Project Keepsake, and good luck with your book!

What about you? Do you have a keepsake story? I encourage you to share your story with family and friends. Share the origins and histories of the most special keepsakes in your possession. Write down the stories that matter. Keep storytelling alive!

To read other stories about keepsakes and the memories they hold, please purchase a signed copy of Project Keepsake by clicking the link on the right. It's on sale now with no shipping and handling charges. And by the way, it's a great Christmas gift for a loved one, especially when paired with a keepsake.

If you live in Northwest Georgia, buy from one of these small businesses—Dave & Pauli's Art Emporium in Dalton, Cottage Treasures in Ringgold, Blue Willow Antiques in Cave Spring, The Lighthouse in Calhoun, the Harris Arts Center in Calhoun, or A Gift of Season in Calhoun, and the Payne Farm Vegetable Stand in Lily Pond.