I didn’t need the weatherman to tell me a storm is coming or that winter break is just around the corner. I have Kindergartners in the library. There is something in the air today. I can feel it when I walk into the room. The message eerily floats in like the green fog angel of death in the 1956 movie The Ten Commandments. The message is clear: No matter how good I think I am with children, I don’t have a chance today.
It begins with Arlene dancing her way into the room singing, “Books. Books. Books. I love books.” She keeps singing while Jimmy tattles on Brittany and says she hit him with her library stick.
Connie Jo, dressed for the holiday, looks up at me and says sweetly, “Santa is coming soon.”
Before I can respond to Connie Jo, Jimmy finds another person to tattle on and shouts, “Mrs. Eberst, Donald is picking his nose!”
“Don’t pick your nose!” I sternly tell Donald. “Get a tissue from my desk.”
As soon as I turn my back, a group of girls cries out, “Eeeeewwww. He ate his booger!”
“Don’t eat your booger! Get a tissue. Then go wash your hands!” I glance at the clock, hoping class is over but only a few minutes have ticked by since the green fog entered the room.
Feeling a tug, I look down and there stands Connie Jo. With the same sweet smile, she again shares the news that “Santa is coming soon!” Once again, I ignore her when I hear screams coming from the other side of the room. Standing next to a pile of books that moments ago were in perfect order on the shelf. Tom is on the floor, flat on his back. He’s holding a book in each hand, insisting, “I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it!” Other students begin rushing toward the pile like shoppers on Black Friday as Arlene is twirling around shouting, “Ugly Alert! Ugly Alert!” This is exactly what I say when students have messed up the bookshelves and aren’t being responsible with their shelf markers. At that moment, I curse myself for teaching twenty-five kindergartners “the ugly shelf alert.”
Jimmy has made his way to my desk and shouts to me that Donald is now trying to get him to eat his boogers. I rush to the circulation desk, “No. No. No. No. Get a tissue!” As I hand the box of Kleenex to Donald, Ann yells out that she has to go to the bathroom.
“Go!” I shout back. Ann squats down and goes to the bathroom.
“Mrs. Eberst, Ann urinated on the floor!” Lorraine tells me. Not sure I’ve heard her correctly I ask, “What?” Lorraine thinks I don’t know the definition of urinate, so she shouts at the top of her lungs. “Ann peed on the floor!” I look over to see Ann standing in a wet puddle in the middle of the picture book stacks. “Go to the office and get cleaned up,” I order.
Connie Jo has now morphed into Dr. Seuss’s Cindy Loo Who, trying to be heard above the commotion and shouting, “Santa is coming soon! Santa is coming soon!” Arlene continues to lead a group of students dancing around books still on the floor as she shouts, “Ugly Alert. Ugly Alert!”
Yes. Things are getting ugly. How did I lose control so quickly? I raise my hands and give the code for everyone to be quiet. “Spark!” I shout. “Go to the reading corner. Everyone. Now!”
Twenty-five five-year-olds happily skip to the reading corner. As soon as we sit on the floor, I hear Jimmy say, “EEEWWWW! Billy farted!”
Determined to take back control, I tell him that everyone farts. It is a natural bodily function. Ignore it! Before I finish speaking, I catch the scent of Billy’s fart. I have never smelled anything like it. I had no idea a human being, let alone a child, could produce such an offensive odor. All the students, including the farter, are holding their noses. My eyes start to water and every last breath leaves my body. Trying to breathe through my mouth, I sound like a munchkin as I call out directions. “Go, Go to the front of the library! Now!”
Students holding their noses ignore the rule of NO RUNNING and dash to the front of the room. I want to make a mad dash myself when two students grab my hands. “Oh, good Lord! It’s the picker and the farter,” I think to myself, eyes still watering. Letting go of their hands, I tell them to “Run. Run like the wind to the front of the library.” Off they run.
My head is spinning. I channel the spirit of Charlton Heston starring in Planet of the Apes. Falling to my knees, I pound my fists on the carpet and shout: “It’s a mad house! A MAD HOUSE!” I watch my students as they dance in slow motion around the library hearing their muffled cries of “Ugly Alert! Ugly Alert!” They sing as they hold their shelf markers toward the sky, dancing as if in pagan ritual.
Just as I think I will lose consciousness, I look up and standing before me is my sweet student Connie Jo, my very own Cindy Loo Who. Oblivious to all the chaos around her, Cindy Loo announces once again that Santa is coming soon. She looks precious and smiles more sweetly than before as a light falls from the library ceiling, giving her a heavenly glow.
Despite all the commotion, I can’t take my eyes off Cindy Loo. Her innocence calms me. The grin on her face and the light in her eyes that Santa is coming soon and what that means to her deeply touches my heart.
I block out the chorus of “ugly alert” being sung by twenty-four kindergartners as they dance around the stacks. Looking beyond them, I focus on the large windows in the front of the room. Outside large snowflakes are floating down silently and peacefully.
For a brief moment, Cindy Loo’s sweet declaration that Santa is coming fills me with peace on earth and good will toward men. I feel her little hands on my face as she looks into my eyes and whispers once again. “Santa is coming soon.”
Hugging her tight I say, “Yes, Santa is coming soon.” Then I look at Cindy Loo and smile. Glancing toward the front of the library at the little pagans dancing in slow motion, singing their muffled Ugly Alert carol, I think to myself, “Yes, Santa is coming soon. For me, Santa cannot come soon enough.”
Rhonda Willford Eberst is passionate about turning kids on to reading. Raised in Wyoming, she moved to Ohio with her husband and has been with the Reynoldsburg City Schools for twenty years. She currently serves as the Librarian and Director of the Summit STEM Living Library Museum. She is also a bestselling author, humorist, and speaker. “Santa Is Coming Soon” is one of many real-life conversations that will touch your heart while making you laugh out loud when reading I Survived Pompeii: Hilarious Adventures in an Elementary School Library.