Has anybody here, seen my old friend Saa-aanta? Can you tell me where he's gooo-ooo-ooo-ooone?
Santa Claus is missing.
He has been my faithful companion for several months, slumbering quietly in my top desk drawer, sleeping off his holiday indulgences. Oh, every now and then, I take him out to spread good cheer to assorted students. Some need his assistance on a daily basis. But until now, he has always returned to his oaken bunk after carrying out his designated duty. Until yesterday.
The overwhelming majority of students arrive in my classroom with necessary materials to facilitate maximum learning. Two, do not. They are in my more mature group, not so much in behavior as in years on this earth and grade level in school. These two politely request the use of a pencil, and promptly return it when finished.
Because I did not just fall off the yellow turnip bus, I know that often "loaning" a pencil is akin to "loaning" a tissue. The student asks to borrow it, but you're not getting it back. For that reason, if I deign to dole out a pencil, I make sure it's the most undesirable writing utensil ever to be grasped by a student's sweaty palm. The ratio of borrowers runs about twenty to one, boys to girls. I used to loan a hot pink pencil, but then those young whippersnappers got all metrosexual and real men wear pink on me, and that color was no longer a theft deterrent.
Santa Claus, and his dear friend Gingerbread Man, are popular on the paper, but not so much in the pocket. Like the biology text, *Bob, they are highly-prized in my classroom, but not outside its boundaries. Santa, G-Man, and Bob are starters in the regular rotation of supplies that are proffered in order to keep kids in the classroom during the daily game of I Forgot Something In My Locker.
I normally don't loan items to freshmen. A freshman is an unreliable borrower, with no credit record, no visible means of support, likely to leave town in the dead of night with my pencil strapped to the top of his four-wheeler, never to be seen again. So it was with some trepidation that I allowed Santa to assist a ninth-grader. I'm not sure what came over me. Perhaps it was the heady excitement, nearly palpable, of the very first day of the brand-spanking-new FOURTH QUARTER.
Like a Baby Jesus missing from the manger of a churchyard nativity scene, I fear that Santa is irretrievably, unequivocally, indisputably lost.
*Bob is an old biology textbook, not checked out to anybody. One of his past assignees wrote the name "Bob" on the closed pages opposite his spine. He resides alone on the battered wooden bookcase at the back of my classroom, waiting for the day his brethren are collected and stacked about him in a joyful last-day-of-school textbook reunion.