Christmas was nearing. I roamed around our apartment trying to find a gift for my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Higgins. I looked through closets, on shelves, in drawers.
On one wall hung a framed poster of a white woman, wearing a black pinstripe suit, toasting with a glass of champagne, and leaning against a Rolls Royce in front of a building labeled, "Welfare Department." Written above the picture were the words, "Poverty Sucks."
I thought it was a nice picture. I lifted it off the wall and wiped it with Windex. It looked almost new. I wrapped it in Christmas paper. I was overjoyed about being able to give my teacher a gift. I could only hope that my mother didn’t notice that the picture was missing.
I walked into the classroom. We were having a Christmas party that day. All the students were giving their gifts to the teacher. I handed her my gift.
"Thank you, Talia," she said.
She ripped off the Christmas paper. She held the picture in front of her face. I wanted to see if she liked it. She lowered the picture. She looked upset. She got up from her desk and gave the picture back to me.
"What was wrong with my gift," I thought.
Maybe she knew it wasn’t brand new.
I was embarrassed. All of the other kids were watching. I took the picture and put it back in my desk.
Ms. Higgins never explained to me why she gave the picture back.
I know why now.
And I laugh whenever I think about it.