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A girl's uncle, a military pilot, helps realize the dreams of a young boy.
World War II had turned the world upside down, but for us second and third-graders at the Camak Elementary School, Christmas traditions went on same as always.
The first week in December our teacher Mrs. Virginia (who was also my mother) announced this was to be a special week. First we decorated a tree with handmade ornaments and paper garland. Then we all sat around it to share our Santa wish with the class.
“I want a scooter,” said the boy on one side of me.
“I want a Red Cross nurse’s kit,” I said for my turn.
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Willie sat next to me. He never spoke in class, so I was shocked when he stood up, put his hand over his heart, and in a soft voice said, “I want a leather flight jacket with a helmet and goggles like the pilots in the Air Corps.”
After he finished Willie looked around and sat down. Then it was time to prepare for the annual gift exchange.
“Everyone will take one name out of the hat,” Mrs. Virginia said, shaking up the scraps of paper. “Don’t tell anyone whose name you have. That’s the person who will be getting your gift.” She went around the room, giving us all a chance to pick.
The gifts, we knew, would not be anything fancy. Folks in our railroad town did not have a lot of money to spare. There was a spending limit of ten cents, or we could make something.
When Mom came around to me, I shut my eyes, plucked out a scrap of paper and read the name: Willie Evans. I was tempted to turn and look at him, but that would reveal my secret.
I knew Willie’s oversized shoes had been bought with rationing stamps and had noticed that his hand-me-down cardigan didn’t quite meet in the middle. If there was one child in the class who deserved something special it was him. Of course I couldn’t make Willie’s big wish come true.
Nobody was more dashing and heroic than those pilots battling in the skies of Europe and Asia. My uncle Marion was an officer at a flying school in Alabama, training to be an aviator. In his crisp uniform he looked like a movie star. I knew how courageous he must look in his leather flight jacket.
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“Mom,” I said that night as she was making supper. “Do they make flight jackets for little boys?”
“I don’t think so,” Mom said. “But I’ve been thinking about Willie too. Why don’t you write to your uncle and ask if there’s something he could send from the airfield?”
“Good idea!” I said. Right after supper, with Mom’s help, I wrote a letter to Uncle Marion. I explained about the gift exchange, and told him about Willie’s wish. “I’m going to get him a pair of warm red socks from W.M. Moore,” I wrote.
Two weeks after we mailed my letter, a package arrived from Gunter Army Air Corps Flying School in Alabama. Inside was a gift wrapped up with a bow. The label said, To Willie Evans. There was also a letter for me.
“Please make sure your classmate gets this gift, but do not tell him who it’s from.” Uncle Marion wanted to remain anonymous.