Submitted by Denair Unified School District
Talk about keeping a secret. For nearly a month, Air Force Airman Hannah Pointon, her former teacher Patti Morrissey and Denair Elementary School Principal Sara Michelena had been plotting how to surprise Pointon’s parents, Jody and Roger Jorge.
Pointon grew up in Denair. Her mother is the administrative assistant to the district superintendent. They are as close as mother and daughter can be. “She’s the other half of me,” is how Jody describes their bond.
So when Pointon told her parents before Thanksgiving that she wouldn’t be able to leave her base in San Antonio to come home for Christmas, it was an emotional blow. Jody, especially, was heartbroken. They never had been apart at the holidays. She and her Pointon talked and texted every day, but they didn’t expect to see each other until April.
Then Pointon’s plans changed. Only she didn’t tell her parents.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BAsvgMaLFw
Instead, she reached out to Morrissey, whose fourth-grade students at Denair Elementary had “adopted” Pointon at the beginning of the school, just as Pointon, now 24, had done at the same age years ago to a soldier based in Iraq.
“It was all Hannah,” Morrissey said. “She texted me and said she was coming back, and it took off from there.”
Morrissey enlisted the help of Michelena, the school’s first-year principal, and the plans grew. Michelena had never met Pointon, but saw her mom almost every day. She knew how sad Jody Jorge was that her daughter wasn’t going to be home for Christmas.
Friday was the elementary school’s Christmas assembly. There was singing and skits and all sorts of holiday entertainment. Morrissey’s class was last on the program. She talked about her students’ special relationship with Pointon, about how they sent her hand-made Christmas cards and care packages, and shared the story about how Pointon had done the same thing as a fourth-grader.
Morrissey read an email from Pointon thanking the students, then introduced a video of Pointon made especially for her parents. Finally, Morrissey’s students sang “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” a song she said was written in 1943 from the point of view of a World War II soldier missing his family.
When it was over, as Jody Jorge already was wiping tears from her eyes, Morrissey had one more surprise.
“Christmas is such a magical time,” she said, “and sometimes our deepest wishes and dreams do come true. Welcome home Hannah.”
As Pointon entered at the back of the gym to claps and happy gasps, Jody Jorge was out of her chair, running to embrace her daughter. While the audience clapped and cried happy tears, Jody Jorge hugged Pointon like she’d never let her go.
“I think I’ve cried every day the last two weeks, thinking I wasn’t going to see her,” Jorge said. “This is the best surprise ever.”
Roger Jorge also was in shock. “I didn’t believe it, even when Jody jumped up.”
Despite all the planning, Pointon arrived literally at the last minute – as Morrissey was introducing the video. She got up at 3 a.m. to catch a flight from San Antonio to San Francisco, which landed a half-hour late at 8:30. Fortunately, her only luggage was a backpack, but she still had to get her rental car and deal with heavy traffic all the way to Denair.
“Originally, we were just going to surprise the students,” said Pointon, who is studying to become a cardiopulmonary lab technician. “Then Mrs. Michelena and Mrs. Morrissey turned it into something else.”
With Jody Jorge still squeezing her hand, Pointon admitted it wasn’t easy to keep her parents in the dark.
“I’ve never lied to my mom before,” she said. “It was hard.”
Jody Jorge already had sent her daughter’s presents to her and arranged for a live Christmas tree to be delivered to her in Texas. But Jody and Roger didn’t put up a tree at their own home this year or any of their own Christmas decorations. There was no need, they thought.
They were planning to spend Christmas with their son, Dennis, and his wife in Thousands Oaks.
They’ll still be in Southern California for the holiday – joined now, of course, by Pointon. The entire family will be together again.
Friday afternoon, mother and daughter were going shopping for a tree. The decorations were going to be unboxed.
“Just to give that family that gift, there’s nothing better,” Morrissey said. “It’s a great feeling to be part of that.”