Francesca retired from teaching pre-school last June. During her final year she would come home from work and say wistful things like, "Today I planted the school garden for the last time" or, "I'm gonna miss having Thanksgiving lunch with my students".
Then there was the real weeper, her last Gingerbread Cookie Chase.
Last November she read the well-known children's book, "The Gingerbread Man" to her young students for the last time.
Her latest batch of kids were once more enthralled by this small brown cookie running away from his baker. In the chase that follows, he is fooled (and eaten) by a fox.
As it is with her yearly ritual, Francesca spent the night before making ginger cookie dough from scratch. The next morning at school, she rolled out sheets of it with her four-year-old students. Each child got to make and bake their own cookie.
My wife had been doing this with her students for twenty-six years.
Around 11 a.m. she pulled the kids' hot cookies out of the oven. After setting the pan out to cool Francesca led her students to the cafeteria for lunch.
When the class returned the gingerbread men were gone! The kids were shocked (as they had been for a quarter-century) shouting, "Our cookies have run away!". Each began to scour the room for them. As it happens every year, one student noticed there was enough space under the door for a cookie to escape.
The entire class took to the school hallway to search for their runaway cookies. The teacher from the next class said she had seen a group of small brown men rounding a distant corner. The kids ran to knock on another classroom's door asking that teacher, "Did any cookie men run into your room?".
As the first-grade teacher said, "I'm sorry, I haven't seen any, her students sniggered and showed broad smiles. Many of them -older and wiser now- had been on this chase two years before.
After checking several more classrooms they visited a fourth-grade teacher who indeed, had witnessed small cookies slipping under his door. He said they looked very tired so he gave them trays to rest on.
The panting kids reclaimed the trays of sleeping cookie men carefully carrying them back to their classroom so they would not wake them up. As it is with this annual rite, my wife then asked her students, "What shall we do now? The kids agreed they must keep them from running away again by eating them.
After hearing this story, as I did every year, I wanted to eat one too. My dear wife produced the her last cookie and offered it to me. Hungry as a fox I ate it before it could escape.