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The Suburbanite
  • Jim Mesko: Remembering a special Christmas gift

  • Anyone who knows me can tell you my favorite cartoon character is “Opus the Penguin” from the old Berkeley Breathed cartoon strip “Bloom County.” I have collected books, stuffed animals, shirts, cards and all sorts of Opus items. When I was teaching, my students could always expect several Opus items to be on display in my room.

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  • Anyone who knows me can tell you my favorite cartoon character is “Opus the Penguin” from the old Berkeley Breathed cartoon strip “Bloom County.” I have collected books, stuffed animals, shirts, cards and all sorts of Opus items. When I was teaching, my students could always expect several Opus items to be on display in my room.
    In 1987, I had a class of great students. They were the type of class a teacher just enjoyed having. Shortly before Christmas, several of them told me about an Opus phone they had seen at Belden Village Mall. They asked if I had seen it, and I told them I hadn’t, but I would check it out. I found the phone, but at $80, it was more than what I was willing to spend. I told them I’d seen it but it was just too expensive. I left it at that.
    A few days later, my students were acting strangely. I knew they were up to something. As Christmas vacation approached, their activity appeared to increase, raising my suspicions even more.
    As I walked into class the last day before break, I carefully looked around, trying not to arouse their suspicions that I suspected they were up to something. But there wasn’t anything in the room, box or otherwise.  
    Our principal, Larry Brown, appeared at my door about five minutes later. In his arms was a large, wrapped box. As I let him in the room, the whole class broke into wide grins.
    “Mr. Mesko,” he said, “there was this big box addressed to you down in the office, so I just thought I would bring it up.”
     He handed me the box, and as we walked up to my desk, 25 smiling faces beamed up at us. I slowly and carefully unwrapped the gift and, lo and behold, there was the foot-high Opus phone in all its glory. I think I really understood how Ralphie felt in the “Christmas Story” as I opened the box and took out the Opus phone to show my students. I was touched by their kindness and generosity. I tried to thank them but words really could not convey how much I appreciated what they had done. I don’t know how many times that day I showed other teachers my special gift, but it was a lot. It sat under our tree at home until the holiday season came to an end.
    When school resumed in January, I had a special cake made for my class. Brown came up and joined us, and the Opus phone was there, too. It was just small way to repay my students for giving me a very special Christmas gift.
    I still have that Opus phone and use it every day. Chances are, if you receive a call from me, it was made on my Opus phone. To the students who were so generous to me 25 years ago, I want you to know that every time I use that phone I think of all of you and what you did that Christmas. That phone still has a very special meaning to me. I want to take this chance to thank you all again for what you did and wish each of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.