Jennifer and the ‘living’ Advent wreath
On the last week of November, the teachers of Holy Child Elementary School decided to decorate the entrance of the school with a belen. One of the teachers suggested that the belen-making be done by the pupils instead, to showcase their talents. The entire faculty cheered the suggestion, and a belen committee was immediately organized. It was composed of the most artistic children of Holy Child Elementary School.
Jennifer, a Grade 5 student, was not considered artistic. Yet, she wanted to be a member of the committee, because, for her, decorating for Christmas was the most exciting thing to do! She wished she’d be allowed to help in minor tasks, such as tracing patterns and applying glue on cartolina cutouts.
But, when she volunteered, the leader of the belen committee, Cathy, told her, “What we really need is someone to keep the premises constantly clean while we are working, so the principal won’t nag us about the mess.”
Jennifer immediately looked for a broom and a dustpan. She did not mind being the janitress and everyone’s errand girl.
But, the plants did. Placed in cans by the pupils, they filled the big yard beside the entrance of the school. While the belen-making was in progress, they talked among themselves.
Rose said to Lily, “Poor Jennifer. The cardboard star she attempted to make was discarded. Andrew thought its tips were not pointy but rounded, and the star looked like a cartoon character with a headache. Jennifer wasted their art supplies and Andrew complained. To think she’s not supposed to do cutouts and other artistic procedures!”
“But, Andrew’s own star looks like a cartoon character that’s been in a car crash,” Lily said. “So, why is it the one Cathy approved?”
“Because Cathy has a crush on Andrew,” Dolichothele Cactaceae whispered.
“Really? Andrew is cute but not serious in his studies,” Dizygotheca Araliaceae whispered back, pouting.
Pleomele Agavaceae exclaimed, “Look, listen! Carlo is blaming Jennifer for the papier mache angels that look like they have a skin disease. Actually, he’s to blame, he put too much water in the paste!”
Fern, who had many relatives thriving under the window of the faculty room, contributed a vital piece of information: “I was told by my cousins that the teachers believe everything that the belen committee reports to them about Jennifer. For instance, Susan reported that the belen is taking time to finish, because Jennifer insists on adding her artistic touches, which resemble chicken scratches. She spoils the artwork, so it needs to be repeated. – But, the truth is, the members of the committee play and chat more than work.”
“Hmm,” Mimosa mused. “It looks like the school has someone new to blame for everything bad that happens – in addition to the cat, of course.”
One day, the teachers decided that Jennifer had to be told to stay away completely from the belen project, so the artists could continue working without her annoying interference.
So her feelings would not get hurt, the teacher told her she was needed elsewhere. She assigned Jennifer to trim and water the plants – chores she did regularly – then, put eggshells over the tips of certain spiky leaves, to highlight their beauty.
The plant called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue giggled: The eggshells Jennifer was putting over her leaves tickled. She said, “Jennifer makes us feel so good, we should do something for her in return.”
“Like what?” Bachelor’s Button asked.
“Well,” Dracaena said, “We could make a garland out of our leaves and flowers, Jennifer could wear it as an accessory at her class’ Christmas party.”
Palmera laughed. “Her classmates would tease her. They’d say she looks like a Hawaiian dancer!”
Poinsettia, the Christmas flower, who was listening to the conversation quietly, broke her silence: “I signal the coming of Christmas with my color. The nearer Christmas gets, the redder I get, and the happier people get, especially Jennifer. So, let’s pray for Christmas to hurry!”
With Poinsettia leading, the plants chorused: “Come, Jesus, come! We are waiting for you.”
Jennifer put down her basket of eggshells. She seemed to hear them. Jennifer said to herself, “Waiting for Jesus is what Advent means, according to our religion teacher.” A brilliant idea hit her: She was going to make a living Advent wreath!
Jennifer drew a circle on the ground with a stick, then poked four holes to mark the spots where the candles were supposed to stand. Around the holes, she grouped the flowering plants together. Between the flowers, on the circle line, she arranged green ornamental plants. The plants were now one huge Advent wreath!
The teacher, who happened to look out of the faculty room’s window, saw Jennifer’s work and exclaimed to her co-teachers, “Look at what Jennifer has done!”
All the teachers, and the principal, too, rushed to the yard. “It is a very creative and original Advent wreath,” the principal pronounced.
“But, it’s not yet finished, ma’am,” Jennifer said. “Bamboo poles must be placed to hold the Advent candles with metallic ribbons. The eggshells need to be colored purple and pink. – But, I don’t know how to do that.”
There was a hush. The principal turned to the members of the belen committee. “You are artistic people. Help Jennifer with this wreath!”
And that’s exactly what the members of the belen committee did –reluctantly at first, and then, later, with a lot of fun. They even allowed Jennifer to put some green plants around their finished belen. They agreed that the natural greenery made the papier mache figures stand out.
But, there was no star yet to complete the scene of the birth of Jesus. Andrew’s star had fallen to the ground and had gotten soiled by the cat, according to Cathy. But, according to Bougainvilla, Cathy discarded Andrew’s star because he had fallen out of her heart: She realized that cuteness was no longer enough for her to have a crush on a boy. Besides, his star was not good enough to be hung atop the belen!
Cathy asked Jennifer for a suggestion, and Jennifer said, “There are already so many flowers in the Advent wreath. We can remove one of them and hang it up as a star!”
“And what flower would that be, Jennifer?”
Jennifer replied, “Poinsettia!”
Hearing this, Poinsettia turned really red with joyful anticipation. She was so thrilled to beautifully signal that the spirit of Christmas had already come to Holy Child Elementary School!
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.