In 2006, my daughter went to the world’s greatest preschool in Ann Arbor, MI. It was FUMCN (First United Methodist Church Preschool Cooperative). The teacher, Ms. Juli, sent home surprise Christmas presents that year made from handprints and footprints of the children.
This one of a reindeer, made from my 4 year old’s footprint as the body and her two handprints as the antlers, hangs on the kitchen wall every single December. And every single December, I get all misty eyed as I look at this smudged little reindeer.
And do you know what goes through my mind? I think about how Ms. Juli got all those children barefoot, placed a wriggling and uncooperative foot in brown paint, positioned it carefully on white felt, and then figured out how to get that foot all cleaned up in time for pick-up. Then I think of the containers of green and red paint, the glue, and the chaos of it all. I think of the pom-pom noses flying across the classroom and googly eyes that won’t stay put.
I think of the parent volunteer who stitched the fabric and the other one who tied the green string for hanging. I think of the wrinkled and bunched up wrapping paper, encircled by an entire roll of tape, that I unwrapped that year.
Was it worth it, this mess?
Yes! Yes! Oh, teachers and volunteers, yes!
I wanted to thank that teacher from all those years ago. One day, a parent will hang up the old preschool Christmas gifts when her daughter is a teenager, and she’ll cry her eyes out as she remembers. She’ll place her own hand over those little handprints and whisper a prayer, not just for her own growing daughter, but also for teachers who leave these kind of marks.