Dear Miss A, Just a note to say hello and let you know of my love. I hope all is well. Love, Miss Antaloop
Julia folded up the note, then, in red marker, wrote, “Miss A,” in an extravagant, cursive style that didn’t resemble her own handwriting.
The bell rang, and the second grade classroom exploded in a frenzy of activity—backpacks zipped, desks slammed, and children noisily exited the room. Julia set the envelope on her teacher’s desk without being noticed and left with her classmates. She was determined that Miss Allen, or Miss A, as her second grade students called her, would have no clues about the mysterious Miss Antaloop.
A month earlier, Julia had overheard Miss A telling another teacher that she had nowhere to go for the upcoming Christmas holiday. Julia could not imagine a Christmas without family.
“I heard Miss A say she had nowhere to go for Christmas,” Julia told her mom after school. “Why doesn’t she go home to her family?”
“Julia, Miss Allen told me once that she was an only child, and I know that both of her parents have passed away. She probably doesn’t have any family to go to.”
Julia’s face twisted into a frown. “That’s so sad! Why, Miss A is the nicest, most wonderful teacher ever!” She paused, thinking. “Hey—can we be her family?”
“She is a very special teacher,” Mom agreed. “I’ve invited her to come to dinner before, when David was in her class. I also invited her to his mission farewell, but she didn’t come.”
That night Julia wrote her first letter to Miss A from the make-believe Miss Antaloop. Most of the students loved Miss A. But Julia wanted to find a way to show her that she was loved as a friend, not just as a teacher who might be forgotten. So she made up the character of Miss Antaloop. Julia wasn’t sure of Miss Antaloop’s age or background, but she knew that Miss Antaloop loved adventure and loved Miss A. The second letter established England as Miss Antaloop’s home.
Dear Miss A, I’ve heard all about you and what an incredible teacher you are. I was hoping we could be pen pals and friends. I’ve been in Italy, painting, and just moved to London to design jewelry for the Queen of England. You are pretty and a great teacher. Love, Miss Antaloop P.S. I’ve enclosed one of my latest jewelry designs. I hope you like it.
Julia carefully wrapped a bracelet she’d sculpted out of tinfoil in some tissues and placed it in a brown paper bag with the letter. The next morning she arrived at school early. She tiptoed into the main office, placed the brown sack in Miss Allen’s mailbox, and then ran out before she could be spotted.
Later that day, Miss A was wearing the silver foil bracelet.
“Hey, Miss A, where’d you get that silver thing?” Tommy asked.
“Why, it’s a bracelet all the way from England,” Miss A said with a big smile. Julia looked up from her spelling book with a start.
“Who gave it to you? Is it from a kid?”
Miss A put her finger to her lips, signaling Tommy to use his quiet voice.
“Is it from a kid?” Tommy repeated in a fierce whisper.
Miss A’s blue eyes sparkled. “It’s from a special friend,” she said. Since the first delivery, Julia had noticed her little gifts and letters appearing on Miss A’s bookshelf.
On the day before school was to close for the Christmas break, Miss A let the children share their holiday plans. Phillip was going sledding. Andrea was going to California to visit her grandparents. Tommy planned to eat all of the candy in his stocking in one day.
“What are you going to do, Miss A?” Andrea asked.
“I am going to spend my holiday at home.”
“Why don’t you come to my house?” Julia asked.
“And then come over to mine!” Phillip echoed. Suddenly the classroom broke out in a chorus of second-graders begging their teacher to join them for Christmas.
“You’re all very sweet,” said Miss A, “but you have your families to celebrate with and, as you’ve just told me, many activities planned. I’ll be right here by my desk at the first of January, waiting to see you and hear about all of your fun.”
The bell rang. As Julia walked slowly out of the room, Miss A said, “Good-bye, Julia. Merry Christmas!”
Julia’s house buzzed with Christmas preparations over the next few days.
While Julia helped wrap presents and bake food, she kept thinking of Miss A’s face as the different students described their holiday activities with their families. She had smiled, but her blue eyes had looked empty with loneliness. Julia decided to do something about it.
“David, David,” Julia whispered as she knocked on her brother’s bedroom door.
The door swung open, and David looked down at his little sister. “Hey, Jules, what’s up? Are you being a Christmas elf?”
“No,” Julia said. “I need help.”
David crouched down to look Julia in the face. “OK, Jules, what’s up?”
“I need you to help me—it’s very important. I want to deliver this to Miss A.” She held up a large white box. “Dad said you could take me.”
“What is it, Jules? I thought you already gave her a Christmas present.”
“I did, but this is a special present.”
David lifted the box lid to see the nativity scene that Julia had made with salt dough in Primary last year, nestled in tissue paper. Last year Julia had been so proud of it that she insisted that it be displayed in the living room.
“Your nativity set? But you love this.”
“I know.” Julia lovingly touched the Baby Jesus in the manger. “But I think Miss A feels lonely. I think she forgot that Jesus loves her.”
David smiled at the misshapen dough figures. “OK,” he said, picking up the box in one arm and Julia in the other. “Then let’s go, little elf.”
The car cut through the snowy, dark streets and stopped at a brown apartment building.
“I guess this is it.”
“Are you sure?”
“This is the address in the phone book,” David said. Julia looked doubtfully at the long staircase and dark windows.
“Jules, do you want me to do it?”
Julia’s face relaxed into a smile. “Will you?”
“Hand it over,” David laughed.
Julia straightened the bow so that “Merry Christmas from England! Love, Miss Antaloop” was visible. “Be careful, and run fast so she doesn’t see you,” she whispered.
Julia quickly changed into a Sunday dress and came down for the annual Christmas Eve family home evening. The family had just settled in the living room, when the doorbell rang. “Who could that be on Christmas Eve?” Mom wondered aloud. Dad went to answer the door and returned, followed by Miss A.
“Miss A!” Julia ran up to her teacher.
“Miss Allen, what a wonderful surprise!” Mom said. “Come in.”
“I’m sorry to interrupt,” she said. “But I received a very special present this evening, and I had to come thank the person who gave it to me.”
“What … but … how did you know, Miss A?” Julia asked, embarrassed she’d been discovered.
Miss A smiled. “Julia, you must tell Miss Antaloop thank you for bringing some light into my Christmas.” She hugged Julia. “I had just sat down to watch a Christmas special on television, when the doorbell rang. I was surprised to find a present there and to open it and find such a beautiful reminder of the reason for Christmas!” Miss A’s eyes sparkled.
“Miss Allen, why don’t you take off your coat and stay. We’re going to have a little Christmas program, then dinner,” Mom said.
“Yes, please stay!” Julia begged.
“Come on, Miss A,” David chimed in.
“Well,” Miss A said. She looked around at the faces looking back at her with hopeful, welcoming expressions on them. Suddenly she did not want to return to her empty apartment. “OK—I will.”
“Hurray!” Julia cried.
“I’ll have to stay if I want to catch Miss Antaloop,” she whispered to Julia with a wink.
Julia smiled. She knew that Christmas wasn’t about make-believe friends. It was about love.