This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This story is copyright by Owen Hudson, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.
Dreams Don't Grow on Trees
Thanksgiving was hardly over, and Adam was already looking forward to Christmas, not because he expected gifts, but because he felt an acute sense of family during the holidays. He loved his family and the extended members that came with it. He knew his biological grandparents, but he had no sense of a connection. He had never received a phone call, or even a birthday card from them. However, he did love his great-uncle George.
During a planning session for the Christmas gathering, it was decided that the family Christmas gathering would be the Saturday before Christmas, which was on a Monday. This would give individual families the opportunity to spend Christmas at home.
"Why don't we just skip our Christmas gathering and cook Christmas dinner at the Reed Center for those who are alone or can't afford a good meal on Christmas Day?" Adam asked during the planning session.
"Adam, that's a wonderful idea," Rita quickly agreed.
"Yes, it is," Grace agreed. "Adam, you and all of my grandchildren are so thoughtful."
"Some may not even have transportation there," Kyle pointed out. "Maybe we should consider a location in town."
"Many of us have SUVs and we could transport them to the Center," Haden suggested.
"What about gifts for the kids?" Jon asked. "I remember before I was adopted, I rarely got gifts."
"Jon's right," Betty agreed. "Why don't we cut our gift list and buy gifts for the children."
"I like that idea," Lacey agreed. "But how do we know how many gifs to buy? We wouldn't know what ages; and if we buy clothes, what sizes."
"We can buy what we think is needed; and if anything is left, I always know of someone in need," Rita said.
"Let's not buy just clothes," Amy suggested. "Kids need toys too."
"I agree, Amy," Lois said.
"Don't expect a gift from me, and I don't want a gift," Adam said. "I have everything I want ... give instead to other ... that's what I'm doing."
"Oh Adam, how thoughtful," Rita said.
"Let's not forget the elderly," Walter said. "Although I'm old, I'm talking about those in nursing homes."
"Well, you do have a heart after all," Grace joked. "No, my wonderful husband is right. We often forget those in nursing homes. The gifts could be simple things like house slippers, a robe, or a lap throw."
"We ladies could meet and make lap throws," Lois suggested. "They're easy to make. In fact I have some already made."
"I love that idea," Grace said.
"I'm really excited about this Christmas, "Linda said. "This is what Christmas should be about."
"We need to let people know about this," Grace said. "Haden and Kyle, I'm putting you in charge of that."
"You're putting 'us' in charge?" Haden joked with a laugh. "Who made you boss of this?"
"I named myself in charge," Grace replied. "And don't you forget, I'm always in charge of things like this."
"Haden, don't argue with her," Walter said. "I know from experience, you'll not win."
"I know, Grandpa," Haden said. "Yes, Grandma, Kyle and I'll be happy to do that. We'll get it in the paper, and also post it at the food pantry."
"We should also send a flyer to all of the churches in town," Kyle added.
"Don't forget to post that transport will be provided for those who need it," Grace pointed out. "Darrell, you should be in charge of that."
Yes, Ma'am," Darrell said as he shook his head and laughed.
"Grace, I'll arrange for you to get what you need from the grocery store down the street from the bank," Paul said. "The bank will pick up the tab."
"I'll plan on plenty of food," Grace said. "We don't know how many will show up."
"We can donate what's left to people who have to work Christmas day," Steve said.
Soon word got around town about the free Christmas Dinner. Several churches, including St. John's, offered to help. The Baptist and Methodist churches offered their buses to transport people to and from the Center. Many organizations around town agreed to help purchase gifts. Several of Adam's classmates agreed to help serve dinner, so the guests could have a sit-down meal. Adam rebelled when Grace suggested the servers dress as elves - however, he did agree that they would wear Santa hats.
The ladies were busy making lap throws, and even had many of the other ladies around town helping. Darrell placed a huge box at his store with a sign asking for toys for the kids. Paul liked the idea and did the same at his bank.
Adam took it upon himself to ask and get permission from the school board to have a toy drive at the schools. With so many toys and clothes collected, much of the money that individuals planned to spend was shifted to purchasing items for the elderly.
Everyone in the Harrington household woke early Christmas morning. After breakfast, Adam asked to be driven to the Read Center to help get ready for the dinner. "You'll have to ask your brother," Rita said. "I have a turkey in the oven to take over later."
"Mom, Grandma always does the turkey and dressing," Adam said.
"We had too many turkeys to prepare, we couldn't do them all at the Center," Rita explained. "But don't worry; your grandma is making all of the dressing."
"I'll drive you," Haden offered. "I promised Grandma I'd go early to help."
"We need to pick up Justin," Adam said.
"Good morning boys," Grace said when the brothers and Justin arrived.
"Good morning, Grandma," they responded.
"Grandma, why are you here by yourself?" Haden asked. "Where's Grandpa?"
"He'll be here soon," Grace said. "I had Ethan spend the night, so he could come early and help. But I'm letting him sleep in; Walter will bring him when he brings the turkey."
"Hey, Jon, how did you get here?" Justin asked when Jon arrived.
"I rode the ATV," Jon explained. "Mom's finishing up the turkey, and they'll be here later."
"Grandma, how many turkeys did you buy anyway?" Haden asked.
"Enough ... I hope," Grace said with a chuckle. "I need you boys to put the table cloths on the tables. Then you can put out the cutlery and napkins."
"Grandma, what time do we start serving?" Jon asked. He too had started calling Grace Grandma.
"Haden, did you put 11:30 on the announcements?" Grace asked.
"Yes, Grandma, I did," Haden said.
"Why aren't these toys wrapped?" Adam asked when he saw all of the toys behind a divider.
"We decided to let the kids ask for what they like," Grace said. "When the families arrive, they'll be asked to write down what their children want and their clothing sizes. Perry and Tony will try to match the list with what we have. Haden, you and Kyle can deliver food to shut-ins."
"What next?" Haden asked when the tables were ready.
"You can slice the desserts and get them ready to serve," Grace said.
"Grandma, is this all the desserts we have?" Adam asked.
"That's only what I brought," Grace said. "Amy said she had several pies to bring, and several others are bringing desserts. You're Uncle George said he was bringing a chocolate sheet cake. However, I imagine Mary is making it."
"No, Grandma, George will bake it himself," Haden said. "He's actually a very good cook."
Soon the others began arriving with food. Several guests arrived, ready to eat by 11:30. Everyone had a job assignment, thanks to Grace. She even had tasks for the smaller children.
There weren't many home deliveries for Haden and Kyle since the Methodist church bus had a lift and could accommodate those in a wheel chair; so, they ended up helping clear the tables. Walter and some of the other men were assigned to run the dishwasher to assure a supply of clean dishes.
"Hey, Channel 11 news is here," Mark said.
"Could you tell us who we could talk to about filming for the news," the reporter asked.
"Ray Reed is Board Chairman of the Center," Perry said.
"I'll get him," Jon said. "He's in the kitchen helping."
"How may I help you?" Ray asked as he extended his hand.
"I'm Gabe Reynolds with Channel 11 news. We heard about what you people were doing," he said, "and we'd like to do a news story about it. Let's sit here for a few minutes while I gather a little information first."
After taking a few notes, Gabe began, "I'm at the Reed Center outside of Sparks. There are several volunteers here of all ages working to assure anyone wanting a good Christmas dinner may have one. This is Ray Reed, Board Chairman of the Center. Mr. Reed, I understand you donated this building for the Center."
"My family donated the land for this school years ago," Ray explained. "When the school closed, the property went back to me. What you see here is the result of hard working volunteers and generous donations."
"Is this the first year you've served Christmas dinner here?" Gabe continued.
"It is, and we're starting a nutrition program for the elderly next month," Ray said. "We'll serve lunch weekdays. The lunch will be free, but we'll also accept donations."
"It appears everything is well organized," Gabe said.
"We can thank Grace for that," Ray said as he pulled Grace in front of the camera. "Grace is a food service supervisor for Covington Public Schools."
"Grace, how did you come up with the idea of providing Christmas dinner for these people?"
"It was my grandson Adam's idea ... and they ask what's happening to our young people these days. Well, this is what our young people are up to."
"How many people have you served today?"
"Our plate count is almost 100, but as you can see we're still serving."
"I understand there were gifts for the children too."
"Yes, that was Ray's son, Jon's, idea. The entire community has helped provide toys."
"This is the Chambers Family," Gabe said. "Are you enjoying your meal?"
"Oh my, yes," Sharon Chambers said.
"And I got toys," five year old Macy said.
"And some clothes," Sharon added.
"What does this mean to you?" the reporter asked.
"It means we have a Christmas," Sharon said. "We've had a lot of medical bills, and it was pretty bleak until we heard about this."
Gabe interviewed some of other guests, as well as the workers, and then said, "This is Gabe Reynolds reporting from the Reed Community Center near Sparks ... back to you Keith."
"Thank you Gabe," Keith said. "Now, that's a wonderful Christmas story."
By 2:00 there were no more guests, and the volunteers sat down to enjoy their Christmas dinner. "Adam, this was a wonderful idea you had," Amy said as she gave her brother a hug.
"Yes, it was," Debbie agreed. "I'm proud of all you young people."
"We old people did well too," Walter said.
"Alright, young 'and old' people," Debbie laughed.
"I helped too," Dustin proudly stated.
"You sure did," Betty said.
"I can't believe how much he has grown," Linda said.
"Perry has an announcement," Lacey said as the group enjoyed dessert.
"I'll be interning at Rock Creek next semester," Perry said.
"That's great news, Son," Darrell said.
"Haden, don't you have an announcement too?" Amy said.
"I'll be interning at Sparks," Haden said. "It's Alan's and Lana's class."
"That's wonderful," Lois said.
"We have another announcement," Perry said as he hugged Lacey.
"Yes, Perry and I are expecting," Lacey said.
"I was wondering when we'd get another grandchild," Betty said as she gave her daughter and son-in-law a hug.
After the excitement died down, Tony looked at Amy and said, "What do you think?"
"We may as well," Amy said. "Tony and I are also expecting. Oh, and Tony will be interning in Covington."
"Finally ... we get a grandchild," Debbie screamed.
"When are you due?" Linda asked.
"July," Lacey said.
"June for us," Amy said.
"It's good that I'll be on summer break," Lacey said. "Dustin will be entering the program for three year olds at my school, and our neighbor wants to babysit the new baby. It should all work out."
"I guess you'll take a break from your master's degree work," Grant said.
"No, I'm going to take a couple of online courses." Lacey explained.
"Amy, you won't need a babysitter," Debbie said. "I'll be happy to babysit our grandchild."
"Thank you, Debbie," Amy said. "Are you sure?"
"I'd love to do it," Debbie said.
"Well, these announcements are the best Christmas gifts ever," Grace said. "Two more babies for me to spoil."
"You never spoiled us," Julie countered.
"Oh, but I had to live with you," Grace said, as everyone laughed.
Christmas vacation passed very quickly for both Haden and Adam. Adam, Jon, and Justin had all earned starting positions on the eighth grade basketball team. Haden looked forward to begin his intern teaching; but he was also apprehensive. He had learned how to prepare a lesson plan and all those other requirements of a teacher in his education classes, but he was still concerned. Kyle would be interning at the Sparks High School with his former teacher Hal.
"Are you okay, Son?" Darrel asked Haden at breakfast his first day of his internship. "You're really quiet this morning."
"He's nervous about starting his internship," Adam said.
"You'll do fine," Rita assured him.
"Yeah, you even taught me how to read," Adam said.
"Lacey said her first few days as an intern, she mostly observed and graded papers," Haden said.
"Who's taking me to school?" Adam asked when it was nearly time to leave for school.
"We're riding with Kyle this week," Haden explained. "Next week, I'm driving."
"That should save some on your gas bill," Rita said.
"Yeah, and I don't have to drive to Covington," Haden said.
"Who are you interning under?" Darrell asked.
"Mrs. Compton," Haden said.
"Oh, I know Darlene," Rita said. "I think you'll like her. I saw her at Wal-Mart the other day. She mentioned that you were her intern."
"Kyle's here," Adam said as he grabbed his backpack and headed out the door.
"Are you nervous?" Kyle asked on the way to school.
"I'll admit, I am," Haden said. "At least, you have someone you know."
"Oh, I've had Mrs. Compton when I was in elementary school," Kyle said. "You'll like her."
"Hi, Haden," Lana said when she and Alan came into the classroom.
"I think you have to call me Mr. Harrington at school," Haden said. "But outside of school, it's okay to call me Haden."
"Okay, Mr. Harrington," Lana said.
"You handled that well," Darlene Compton quietly said. "Class, this is Mr. Harrington."
"Hi, Mr. Harrington," the class responded.
"Mr. Harrington will be our intern this semester," Darlene said. "You'll show him the same respect you did Ms. Younger last semester."
"How did it go today?" Kyle asked on the way home.
"It was okay," Haden said. "Mrs. Compton had me help a boy with his reading. Apparently, when Mom talked to her, she mentioned how I'd helped Adam. What did Hal have you do?"
"He had me tell about my first day in his class, when I said I hated math," Kyle said.
"Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that," Haden said.
Haden spent the next few weeks grading papers and observing Darlene Compton teaching her class. He decided she was the same caliber teacher as Hal. Further, her students loved and respected her.
After a few weeks, Darlene said, "Haden, I'm going to let you teach next week. I have lesson plans, but I'd like to see you do your own."
"Alright," Haden said. "I only hope I can do half as well as you."
"You'll do fine," Darlene said. "Aiden's reading has already improved. With this many students, I just didn't have time to work with him individually. I don't know how you did it in such a short time."
"I found out that he loves airplanes," Haden said. "I gave him Air Show, a book about two kids going to an air show with their dad in his airplane. He loved it."
"Now, why didn't I think of that," Darlene said.
"My little brother didn't read well when he first came to live with us. I had him read my Where the Red Fern Grows. He loves animals and loved the story. He was soon reading on his own. We also discovered that he needed glasses, and that's when his reading skills really improved."
"Now, that's a possibility. I'll have the nurse do a screening vision test on Aiden, and if she thinks he needs glasses, she'll talk to his parents about a vision test."
Later in the week Darlene asked, "Haden, how's it going with your lesson plans?"
"I have them all done except for Friday's, and I'm working on it."
"May I see them?"
"Sure, I hope they're okay."
"Haden, these are every bit as good as mine."
"Aiden, you got glasses," Haden said, when Aiden came to class the next week wearing glasses, as Haden was preparing for his class. They look good on you."
"Thank you, Mr. Harrington," Aiden said with a big grin.
"Alan, don't you like Aiden's glasses?"
"Yeah, they look good. I wanted some, but the eye doctor said I didn't need them."
"Class, can someone tell me why some people need glasses?"
"They help people see better?" Doug said.
"That's right, Doug. For some people, their eyes don't focus properly, and that's why Aiden needs glasses."
"And it isn't nice to make fun of people who wear glasses," Lana said.
"That's right, Lana. Windy, why do we wear shoes?"
"Because we need them," Windy said.
"That's right, and that's why Aiden wears glasses; because he needs them. Aiden's glasses are somewhat about science, but not part of our lesson today; so, let's get started. Carrie, what's in air?"
"Just air, I guess," Carrie said.
"I know," Jason said. "It's oxygen."
"You're right, Jason. But there're other things in the air, too; we call them chemicals."
"Is there water?" Jack asked.
"Yes, sometimes we can see the water."
"Yeah, when it rains," Jack offered.
"That's right, and on a clear day like today, there're water vapors in the air that we don't see. These water vapors are what we call humidity."
"What else is in the air?" Sally asked.
"There's nitrogen, which we don't use, so when we breathe out, most of it goes out too. We also breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe it out. Our bodies need oxygen, but not the other things. Plants use carbon dioxide and absorb it through their leaves. Plants can't absorb nitrogen through their leaves, but they need it for nutrition."
"Well, how do they get it then?" Alan asked.
"When it rains, some of the nitrogen in the air is dissolved into the soil, and the plants take it in through their roots. Haden continued his class with a power point presentation. Well, I see that it's time for you to go to your music class. We'll discuss this more tomorrow."
"Haden, you did a great job," Darlene said after the children left.
"Thank you," Haden said.
"You had the students thoroughly involved," Darlene continued. "You'll be a remarkable teacher. I also like the way you handled Aiden's glasses. You brought positive attention to his glasses before the other students could say anything. I couldn't have done better myself. I hope this school district hires you, we need teachers of your competence."
Haden was enjoying his internship much more than he expected. Not only was he acquiring valuable experience, but his confidence was building.
"Don't forget, we don't have class Friday," Darlene mentioned as Haden was showing her his lesson plans for the next week.
"I forgot that it's Easter weekend," Haden admitted.
"Do you have plans for Easter?" Darlene asked.
"Our family and friends get together for Easter dinner after church," Haden said.
"What are your plans for Easter?"
"My husband and I'll go out to eat after church. Our son is in the army, and he and his family are in Germany. Our daughter and her family are with her husband's family this year."
"Why don't you join us? We meet at the Reed Center after church."
"We wouldn't want to impose on your family dinner."
"It's more than just my family; it's our family and friends."
"Are you sure we wouldn't be imposing?"
"Of course not; come by after church."
"We stopped going to church, because of our church's views on so many social issues; especially, about gays."
"Come to St. John's. We're pretty liberal."
"Oh, that's the Episcopal church. I've often wondered about that."
"Come, Sunday mass is at 10:00."
"I think we will."
"Good morning, Darlene and Hank, I'm pleased that you accepted Haden's invitation," Rita said Easter Sunday.
"Good morning, I must say we're a little nervous about a new church," Darlene said. "We've always gone to a fundamentalist church."
"Here you participate as much or as little as you like," Rita explained. "We take communion every Sunday, and you're welcome to take communion if you like. It's real wine and not grape juice."
"Actually, we enjoy wine," Hank admitted. "Like many from our church, we buy ours in Covington, so we won't be seen buying it here. Now, isn't that hypocritical?
"Things like that are why we're Episcopalians," Rita said.
"We enjoyed your sermon," Darlene said as she shook Father Jensen's hand after Easter services.
"Thank you and we hope you'll come back," Father Jensen said.
"We plan on it," Hank said.
Darlene and Hank were introduced to the extended family and were readily accepted. Darlene also did some bragging about her intern. It was obvious to Haden that she was doing this for Steve's benefit as a school board member. If he realized what she was doing, he never let on.
The school year was passing very quickly. Adams eighth grade basketball team won their conference with only one loss. The interns were enjoying their internship much more than expected, but were ready for graduation. It was near the end of the semester, and the students were in their music class when Darlene Compton said, "Haden, I have your evaluation finished. It took me a while to complete it, since I have to justify every excellent I gave you. I've never given this many excellence in an evaluation. I know our science teacher at the middle school is retiring. I hope you'll apply. You're good at all subjects, but science seems to be your strong point."
"I'm not sure the school board would hire me."
"I don't know why they wouldn't. You're very intelligent, and my evaluation and recommendation will go a long way."
"It's not because of my qualifications, it's because I'm gay."
"Being gay doesn't prevent you from being an excellent teacher. Besides, the current board is more progressive than the past. Promise, you'll at least apply."
"Okay, I'll apply; my boyfriend wants to stay in the area."
"What's his occupation?"
"He plans to teach and hopes to coach football. He'll graduate this semester too. He said you were his teacher and loved having you for a teacher."
"Oh, may I ask who this might be."
"Oh yes, I remember Kyle as a student. I didn't realize he was your boyfriend when I saw him at the Easter dinner. He was such a sweet boy. And his father is on the school board. I believe there would only be one board member who would vote against hiring a gay person. He won his last school board election by just three votes. I'm glad you're going to apply."
"I'll apply, but a lot depends on Kyle getting hired in this area also."
"Kyle mentioned that he was a math major. So, it should be easy for him to find a teaching position."
"He also wants to coach football."
"Well, my cousin is head football coach at Wilson, and one of his assistants is taking a head coaching job at another school. Let me do some checking, they might also need a math teacher. Would he mind driving the 15 miles to Wilson?"
"I'm sure he wouldn't."
It was to be one big happy celebration with all the graduations. Tony, Kyle, Haden, and Perry were graduating. Perry actually had a couple of classes to complete over the summer term ... but he went through the graduation ceremony, since there were none for the summer graduates. A graduation celebration was planned to be held at the swimming hole.
Kyle had already been hired as an assistant football coach and math teacher at Wilson. Haden had interviews for the middle school science teacher. And Perry was offered the coaching and teaching position at Rock Creek, provided he completed the last six hours for his degree.