Happy Birthday Sandy!

Sandra and the Pearl

By Grandma Baadsgaard

Happy 9th birthday Sandy. I love you very much.

I hope you like this story I wrote just for you.


When her teacher made a new seating chart, she moved Sandy next to McLain.

“McLain has trouble focusing, sitting still and completing his work,” Sandy’s teacher whispered in her ear. “I’ve noticed you usually get your work done early. Do you think you could work with McLain on his assignments after you finish? Don’t give him the answers. Just encourage him to keep working.”

“I’ll try,” Sandy answered.

Sandy was a little nervous about her new table partner. He was always making funny faces and loud outbursts in class. Some of the other children teased him. But when McLain sat next to her, she smiled.

“Hi,” Sandy said.

McLain didn’t answer. When her teacher started their science lesson about oysters, McLain poked Sandy and wouldn’t stop talking.

“Shhh,” Sandy said turning to McLain. “I’m trying to listen. “We can talk at recess.”

McLain stopped talking and listened for a few seconds. Then he poked her.

“Please don’t poke. That irritates me,” Sandy said.

 “The making of a pearl is a quite miraculous,” her teacher said. “Unlike gemstones that are mined from the earth, pearls are grown by live oysters deep in the sea. Gemstones have to be cut and polished to bring out their beauty. But pearls need no such treatment to reveal their beauty. They are born from oysters and their luster and soft inner glow is like no other gem on earth.”

Sandy loved beautiful things. She often searched through her Grandma’s old jewelry in round metal boxes near the dress-up clothes when she went to visit. Sometimes Grandma let her take something home with her.

“A natural pearl begins its life as an irritating object,” Sandy’s teacher said. “Things like a piece of shell, bone or parasite accidentally lodge in an oyster's soft inner body where it cannot be expelled. To ease this irritant, the oyster's body takes action. The oyster begins to secrete a smooth, hard crystalline substance around the irritant in order to protect itself. This substance is called nacre. As long as the irritant remains within its body, the oyster will continue to secrete nacre around it, layer upon layer. Over time, the irritant will be completely encased by the silky crystalline coatings. As a result, something lovely and lustrous called a pearl is formed.”

McLain grabbed Sandy’s pencil and started scribbling on her desk.

Sandy gently took the pencil away and directed McLain’s attention to the front of the classroom where their teacher was showing samples of pearls.

“Cultured pearls share the same properties as natural pearls,” her teacher said. “Oysters form cultured pearls in an almost identical fashion. The only difference is a person carefully implants the irritant in the oyster, rather than leaving it to chance. Then they let nature create a miracle.”

McLain pulled Sandy’s hair.

“We don’t pull hair,” Sandy said with a calm voice. “Pulling hair hurts. We don’t want to hurt each other.”

When it was time for recess, nobody wanted to play with McLain. One boy called him stupid and one girl called him autistic.

“We don’t say mean words,” Sandy said with a calm voice. “Mean words hurt. We don’t want to hurt each other.”

Then Sandy took McLain by the hand and they walked around the play-ground together. Sandy noticed McLain was sad.

“Don’t be sad,” Sandy said. “Sometimes my Mommy says hurry up Sandy. You’re too slow. But I don’t like to hurry. I like to go my own pace. You just have your own pace for learning McLain. You don’t have to be fast.”

After recess it was math time and then it was time for PE. Sandy’s teacher was giving all the children instructions on how to waltz. Each child chose a partner. No one chose McLain. Sandy walked over and took his hand and danced with him. All the other children stared at them and laughed when McLain tripped.

“We don’t laugh at each other when we fall,” Sandy said. “Laughing hurts. I like your dancing McLain.”

McLain smiled.

That day when Sandy got home from school, she told her dad all about pearls. Then they looked on-line to find out more. 

“Did you know that some people used to believe that pearls were the tears of God,” her father said after he read an article he found. “Other people thought they were dewdrops filled with moonlight that fall into the ocean and were swallowed by oysters.”

“I like that,” Sandy said.

“Did you know,” Sandy’s father added, “that the coating the oysters make is made of crystals of calcium carbonate aligned with each other so that light passing along the axis of one is reflected and refracted by the other to produce a rainbow of light and color?

 “I like that,” Sandy said.

The next day at school and the next and the next Sandy made McLain smile. Then she made him smile every day after that.

“Thank you for being such a good friend for McLain,” her teacher said one day after all the other students had gone home.

On the night before the last day of school, McLain got all the money he had saved all year and asked his mom to take him to the jewelry store.

On the last day of school while they were at recess, McLain’s took Sandy’s hand and pried her fingers back until they were in cupping shape.

“This is for you,” McLain said as he gently placed a small white pearl in the palm of her hand.
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shirlgirl said...

Happy Birthday, Sandy, and what a beautiful story written by your Grandma. Her story was very interesting and taught me about the creation of the pearl. I didn't know all of that. I have a string of cultured pearls that were my mother's. My Dad gave them to her when they were dating. They are very old and I cherish them. Just as you cherished your friend and he cherished you because you were a friend to him. I loved that story. It warms my heart.

Janene Baadsgaard said...

Thank you Shirley. I love hearing from you.