Remember that thing I posted on Thanksgiving? Yeah probably not.
Well it turns out we all have something to be thankful for, and Christmas is no exception.
Let’s establish some background. I do not particularly enjoy Christmas. I don’t know if I don’t enjoy it because I have bad memories, or I have bad memories because I don’t enjoy it and look for reasons to be a Grinch. I don’t “bah-humbug” everything, but Christmas just ain’t my gig.
It may have started back when I was a wee lad. Almost every Christmas, I remember my parents fighting. Invariably the tree would get knocked over. This occurred with such regularity that would be one of the insults hurled back and forth; “Go ahead, it ain’t Christmas until you knock over the tree.”
Now despite my broken-home roots (Welcome to every child born in the 70’s), I still fared very well gift-wise every Christmas, as I was raised essentially an only child.
As a junior enlisted military member, I could not afford to travel home from Europe, or later from the midwest so spent a lot of Christmas seasons without family. I usually volunteered to work Christmas day, as I never had children (This is probably another reason I don’t get excited for the season,) and I wanted to make sure the folks with kids did have that time.
One of my season traditions was the “Anti-Christmas Christmas.” I refused to put up any decorations, bought a stack of frozen pizzas and would host all my enlisted buddies who couldn’t go home for the holiday. We would watch “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” (original cartoon, not the Jim Carrey version) and played the associated drinking game with Apfelkorn. This drink was another habit I picked up in Germany. We actually had a lot of fun and it was way less depressing than it sounds.
Add to this behavior a complete inability to give a decent gift (seriously, gift shopping causes me physical pain) and you have all the makings for someone who doesn’t like the holidays. This year was especially unpleasant. It’s a long story that I cannot tell until January 5th. Rest assured, it will be told. I am also flirting with broke which adds to my annoyance with the holiday season and Atlanta is always a traffic disaster anywhere near a shopping center. Atlanta has roughly 473,987 of them.
Christmas Day we dutifully trekked to my parents, 7 miles away. It was a nice morning, my nephew got way too much and was immediately bored with all of it (I can’t fault him, I was worse at his age), I ate way too much great food and we watched bad holiday films. In the middle of the day I returned home to check on my dogs and my Dad wanted me to bring the weenie dog and Chihuahua. The weenie is a particularly skilled lap dog and can sooth my Dad for hours while they both nap. On the way back I spotted a man walking with a gas can along the side of the road. I’m not spiritual but that is a blatant slap at karma I didn’t want to chance, so I pulled over and picked up Gary.
Gary is a car salesman. He is a nice guy, served 7 years in the Air Force, some of it while I was in. December was not good to Gary and on Christmas Eve he ran out of gas. After a several hour trek home, he slept a few hours and grabbed a gas can from his shed and spent his Christmas morning walking back to his car, roughly 20 miles away.
It has been a wet Christmas season here in Atlanta, but it was still in the high 70s. Gary was sweating. We had a nice conversation and he thanked me profusely for picking him up. He hadn’t realized how far he was committed to walking. It was damm near a 20-minute drive just to get him to his car, which I discovered was at a gas station as I dropped him off. That means Gary is broke. Gary never asked or even hinted about money; he just shook my hand and jumped from the car. I feel like he was a bit embarrassed. He is 49 years old with no money. he spent his entire Christmas walking from or to a car he wasn’t entirely sure he could get home. I don’t know what he was driving, but I hope the few gallons in that can got him where he needed to be.
I drove back to my comfortable house in my Mercedes, texted my wife why I had been gone so long, grabbed two of my four overfed dogs and brought them to my parents rather large home before we all went and saw the new Star Wars movie (I loved it, and I am a harsh critic).
So mission accomplished. While I am flirting with broke, I have achieved a position in life where my lights will always stay on, I have a fridge full of food, and if I ran out of gas I have more than a few friends and family I could call upon. I spent my evening in a crowded theater with my family catching the latest blockbuster, and that night I slept next to a beautiful woman who loves me. I don’t worry about much, and I need to remember what a truly great gift that is.
If you have a warm body to sleep next to, friends to call, food in your fridge and a roof over your head, be grateful. For a lot of folks, actual Americans with jobs, it’s a luxury.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you. I wish all of you a healthy and prosperous New Year, in particular, you Gary.