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Annie's Gift, a story

Annie's Gift

Annie didn’t want to take an apple to Mrs. Rinehart, her third grade teacher.  That is what everybody did.  It was the classic fall gift for a teacher. She wanted, though, to get Mrs. Rinehart to like her so she wanted to take her something different. Something that Annie thought Mrs. Rinehart would like.

Wandering around the backyard on the cool fall Sunday afternoon, Annie noticed some wildflowers still blooming.  The white rhinestone heads that contained a single black flower in the center of the Queen Anne’s lace and the yellow and gold of the marigolds were among the flowers she picked.  When she was through, she had a small bouquet.  It was just about the right size for a vase on a teacher’s desk.

Annie had also been learning to crochet.  Actually, all she had learned to do was cast on the first stitch, but she could make a long chain of stitches which is what she had done several days earlier. Because it looked like a ribbon, Annie used it to tie the wildflowers that she had picked from the garden. At this point in the year, the wildflowers were already drying out, but with the white ribbon of yarn, they looked festive.  Or, at least, that’s what her mom said as she helped Annie tie the bow.  “Do you think she’ll like them, Mom?” asked Annie.

“I’m sure she will,” her mom said.  In retrospect, her mom probably knew that the gift would only be marginally accepted, but she didn’t want her daughter to be discouraged as it had already been a tough enough school year for Annie. Most days Annie didn’t even want to go to school, which was a change from previous years when Annie loved school and learning.

The following morning Annie got on the school bus with her bouquet of flowers tied with the long white ribbon.  She was careful to protect them from being smashed on the long ride to school.  Arriving in class, Annie gave the flowers to Mrs. Rinehart, who tossed them on her desk as another student got the teacher’s attention. 

Annie and the others took their seats as class came to order.  After the spelling lesson, always the first lesson of the day, Mrs. Rinehart announced that today would be a special lesson for certain students while the rest of the children would be working on their language arts pages. 

She called out the names of the students who were chosen, and among others, Annie was picked.  She was excited; she had never been singled out with all the kids she considered to be the “bright kids.”  It was to be the first time they had ever had a science lesson.  Every group of students had a small project to complete.  One group made up of boys did something with magnets.  Annie’s group had a project that focused on water, but Becky’s and Cathy’s group had a project that included plants and seeds. Although that group was doing fine on their own, Mrs. Rinehart said they could use these weeds to help them with their project.  At the end of the lesson, the flowers, suspended by the ribbon, ended up hanging upside down from the blackboard.

All day long, Annie just stared at the flowers, sadly. She wondered if Mrs. Rinehart had liked her gift. Was her gift even appreciated? Would they have set on the teacher’s desk in a vase if Becky, her favorite student, had given them?  Or was it such a bad gift?  Annie never knew, and although she never mentioned it again, she knew that the next time, if there was a next time, she’d bring an apple instead.

Comments
39 Comment count
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You've captured that

You've captured that tenderness of the child here, nan, the insecurity. A very wise tale. I can see this as the focus of a kids' discussion group in a library. Wonderful. ~ M

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Thanks as always, Mara, for

Thanks as always, Mara, for your kind comments.  I would not have thought it worthy of discussion; it was a story that I had to tell. I guess a child's insecurity just about nails it. ~nan

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This is so heartwarming and

This is so heartwarming and wonderful Nan.  Just warms my heart...

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Oh Rina, thank you.  And so

Oh Rina, thank you.  And so do your words...just warms my heart. ~nan

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Simply lovely

I agree with Mara.  Thanks, Nan.

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Thanks Jane for your

Thanks Jane for your kindness. It seems to me that Mara, as well as Rina and yourself, are masters of the visual word.  The story seemed rather simple to me, but glad you liked it. ~nan

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Its beauty is its simplicity

Perhaps you could continue writing more of Annie's story?  I'd love to hear more.

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Jane, Thanks for the

Jane,

Thanks for the encouragement. I have been thinking about writing a few other Annie stories, actually.  This is actually the second I have written, but I don't want her to sound repetitive (or whiny, for that matter), either. In my mind, she is always a bit tentative, a bit internally angry, and a bit not-ever-sure-she-is-right-about-anything-including-herself (and her emotions).

I think Annette's recent stories about Caro and her wishful longings for what might be (sad summer events) has inspired me.  ~nan

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Nan, I loved how you captured

Nan,

I loved how you captured Ann's feelings. I felt her pain. 

Great story,

Annette

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Thanks, Annette, for your

Thanks, Annette, for your kind words.  I guess the story worked after all. It is always hard to tell, but the encouragment of my friends certainly helps. Your recent short stories have been a big inspiration, too.  You always put yourself out there with them, and with your poetry as well. ~nan 

 

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Children and Abuse

Great job, Nan. I think it shows what many people have seen or experienced without having ever placed a name on it. By accepting abuse, Children often twist themselves around in an effort to please the people who society says they should trust. Anyone in authority can do this, by accident or  intention. The wounds can be life-long. Not all hurts are visible.

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Thanks Rob for your

Thanks Rob for your encouragement, always!  ~nan

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Nan ~ you captured the mood

Nan ~ you captured the mood and depth of what many can relate to from their childhood and for many, adulthood also. Brilliant piece. I rank it up there with the best. Love it. mx

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Mary,   Thank you. I am glad

Mary,

  Thank you. I am glad you loved it.  Perhaps everyone had a similar experience in their childhood...a gift treated casually. ~nan

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What a beautifully crafted

What a beautifully crafted story, Nan. I could feel Annie's struggle, her insecurity and not knowing. The ending though, reminds me of not only how these experiences can sort-of close us down, but also of how resilient we can be, how we bounce back–or can bounce back, even if we are left with a few mental bruises and scrapes.

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Rebb,    Thank you for your

Rebb,

   Thank you for your kind comments about the story.  I am glad that my story resonated with you in some small way.  I think we all have had some of these kinds of encounters as both gift givers and gift receivers. We all get a bit battered and bruised with all human encounters, but I agree with you that we can learn resilience from them, too.

  I read a great little book by Tournier called The Meanings of Gifts recently that explains so much about gift giving. Definitely worth reading.

Take care,

 nan

 

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most comments

Hopefully you will be on the most commented section. Your post deserves it and more...mx

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Mary,    Thank you, once

Mary,

   Thank you, once again. I am sitting speechless with tears in my eyes.  That is one of the nicest things anyone has said to me here, and there are many people here who have made wonderful comments over the years. ~nan  

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Excellent!

I mean every word of it, Nan! I think you know that I don't fluff my words!!! mx

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I know, Mary.  That's why I

I know, Mary.  That's why I was so moved.  nan

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Sweet, Nan. I am serious. I

Sweet, Nan. I am serious. I wonder why your blog is not still on the most commented - not highlighted so to speak. There must be something wrong with the system. I don't know why but it annoys me or else I am not receiving the updated version....mx

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Sorry to pipe in here

Sorry to pipe in here gals...but even better, I noticed that Nan's blog is actually featured as a RR Editor's pick! You have to scroll through, but it's there. : )

 

 

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Yes, Rebb, but most commented

Yes, Rebb, fair enough but most commented is surely deserving of most commented! 

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Looks like it made it!

Looks like it made it! Fantabulous!!!

(I hear you on the way the system works and the frustrations...I know it's wacko sometimes--ok, a lot of the time.)

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Yay! Yippee, Yahoo,

Yay! Yippee, Yahoo, Yonderfully yabulous! mx

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Phew, exhausted! Feel as if

Phew, exhausted! Feel as if I've cut ten loads of turf. Time to knock off! mx

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I see Mary's stirring that

I see Mary's stirring that pot again!

Nan, 

Thank you for your kind comments as well. We need to hear more from this character, and we need to keep you in the most commented feature for a while! Well deserved.

Annette

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@Mary,    Thanks for fighting

@Mary,

   Thanks for fighting for my inclusion in the most commented blogs.  Obviously, you have pull. It is funny that you used the word fantabulous in one of your remarks because the other day I used it as well.  My best friend from home used to use it back in the early seventies, and as it was her birthday, I wished her a fantabulous day. 

@ Rebb,

    You are correct as usual, King Friday, err Rebb.  I have been fortunate enough to be on the RR Editors' Pick.  That rarely, if ever, has happened, and if you have had any influence there, thanks to you as well.

@ Annette,

  Thanks for your support as well. I am currently working on another Annie story, a more upbeat one as I would hate to think that she had a totally horrible childhood. I hope to have it posted in a few days if all goes well.

Hugs to all of you for your support.  You are dear friends. ~nan

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Thank you, Jane Wilson

Nancy--I am so glad that Jane shared this on Facebook.  (I don't have much computer time these days and had not seen this sweet sensitive story.)  I am so glad I did not miss it.  Keep telling us about Annie! I suspect that there is a bit of Annie in most writers.  I also especially liked Rebb's phrase "mental bruises."

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Thanks, Sue, for your kind

Thanks, Sue, for your kind comments.  I think that you are correct when you say that all of us (writers) have a bit of Annie in us.  Perhaps that is why we are writers because we see more, feel more, and can empathize with the plight of others. I liked Rebb's phrase, too.  It is very appropriate.

I hope to write a few more Annie stories, and not all of them downers like the two I have posted so far.  Jane was wonderful enough to share not only this one, but the first one as well. 

I am constantly surprised and amazed at the camaraderie of Red Roomers to boost fellow writers.  Writing is such a solitary "sport", yet there are so many here that "cheer" on the others.  I am proud to be associated with them all. ~nan

 

 

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finally found the story

Nancy, First, I just realized something. You're the person I sent my ersatz haiku to months ago. You were so good humored about it. Don't know why I never made that connection until now.

Also, just found the first Annie story (I hope it's the first; I want to read them in proper sequence.) It's a fine  story and my reaction to it is closer to Robert B. Smith's than most of the others. You read my first page of Inception about little Colin. I think you sensed that it was leading to a similar emotional experience. Or I'm assuming too much. But Annie's day struck me as somewhat barbaric. And contrary to the way most people think life is or should be days like that live, consciously or unconsciously, in a child's mind forever. Along with more positive and rewarding days they become who that child is. How do adults make the kindnesses of life dominate? Start early. -------- Charlie 

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Hi Charlie, Thanks for

Hi Charlie,

Thanks for reading and for your kind remarks.  The one above (Annie's Gift) is the second Annie story. The first is just called  Annie...a story in one page, and I suppose the event could be considered barbaric. I think all children of our generation experienced similar things.  It was not the time of "promoting a child's self-esteem" yet I think those experiences helped shape us, both good and bad.  I think that is why the story above resonates with some of the readers. Robert Smith was right when he labelled it as a form of abuse, but it wasn't considered abuse back then because teachers were to be obeyed, were to be charge, etc.  The old "if you get in trouble (spanking) in school, expect the same when you get home" held true. I rather suspected that your novel about Colin may have similar themes.

By the way, the third story, Annie's Crush, I posted the other day.  It is more upbeat.

Actually, I am writing another, but it occurs chronologically earlier than either of these so like Reese's cups, there is no wrong way to read them.  As I come up with different scenarios, I mull them over and then write them, good or bad. Unfortunately, I think that bad events tend to overshadow all else.  It is only in hindsight that we realize that 'that which does not kill us makes us strong." Kindnesses are absorbed because that is what makes a child finally realize that he/she is worthy of being loved.  

I had a counselor tell me that a patient of his was extremely chubby as a child.  But it was his uncle calling him Fatty that made him hate his uncle.  Many years later, he would not go to the man's funeral because he still hurt from the label of "Fatty" lo-those-many-years-ago (despite the man being in shape now).  The counselor continued with...be careful of the words used because words (and deeds) do indeed hurt and are not forgotten.

Now, to check out the ersatz haiku again.  Later, Nan

 

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my pleasure

Nancy,   Such a quick reply and well-appreciated. I'd like to make one thing clear, though. I was taught by Immaculate Heart Sisters. They were the toughest (and I think the best) teachers in the country. I was cracked on the knuckles with rulers or those bamboo signals they used. I never resented that and still don't. The barbarism I was referring to was the coldness and the lack of ackowledgement: the flowers hanging on the blackboard without a word of any kind. It mortifies me to remember that I once actually brought an apple for one of those sisters. She smiled and slid it aside. But the smile was enough. That was ackowledgement. Incidentally, the flowers on the blackboard, whether from your imagination or your memory, make a great symbol. I can still see them. Great cover for a book. On to Annie 2 and 3. --------- Charlie

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Charlie,    I have heard

Charlie,

   I have heard tales about Sisters who teach.  I went to public school, but even there there was an occasional spanking. No rulers on the knuckles, but a pencil tapped on a head, absolutely.  Not fun and hurts more than you might imagine.  Perhaps it is the indignity of it.  

As for the flowers, I can see them. too, in my mind.  Don't think I could handle seeing them on the cover a book, though.  

Thanks for reading it, and for your comments (given with a wistful smile as acknowledgment). ~nan

 

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perception

Perceptive. ------------ Charlie

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back to annie

Nancy,  Several rough days lately. Physical, etc. Old. Slow. But after I have my nap (pathetic) I'll get back to Annie 2. Some of  the reasons (excuses) for the delays on my book will be revealed soon on my RR site. Incidentally, I think it was you who said there might have been a movie called Inception. There was and Cindy Sullivan mentions it in one of  her blogs.

But today as I was waiting for the bus back from Cape May I had 45 minutes to use and it was wise to sit and let my nitro's work so I decided to scribble something and this was what I scribbled. Maybe you'll find it interesting -- or something.

A LIVING CYCLE:                                                                                   Worship Work Love Laugh Sing Dance  7 Rest  Worship Work Love Laugh Sing Dance  7 Rest  Worship Work Love Laugh Sing Dance  7 Rest and so on and on and on... ------------------- Charlie

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Charlie,     Will check it

Charlie,

    Will check it out...as I mentioned to Eva, I have just returned from a trip home so have to catch up here at home.  On the other hand, I had a great time and got to see many friends I haven't seen in a long time.  A win-win except for the laundry that awaits me.  ~nan

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Annie

I, too, want to know more. I feel for her. I want to know more about her year and the other kids.

I am glad your writing is being singled out in stellar ways!

Eva

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Eva,    Thank you for reading

Eva,

   Thank you for reading it; you are so kind to say so.  Besides this one, there are several "Annie" stories now (Annie..a story on one page (under the writing section), Annie's Crush, and Annie's Test).  I just finished another, but still waiting to post that one.  Probably in a day or two as I just returned from several days away (my 40th class reunion) and need to get the home back in order.       ~nan