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Pondering Winter Beside The Christmas Display

alders-after-storm
For a mid-November day, the storm was all rain and no snow. In addition, it was very cold, so I took shelter in a Mall. I settled into a bench near the ‘Santa Claus / North Pole / Toy Workshop’ display, because that is where the benches had been moved. I have the guess, they were moved so they could be filled by kids and parents when Saint Nick made his appearance.
 
Two other fellows were already there. After the younger man (whilst looking at his phone) made a brief comment about the weather, the other man, older, grizzled and full-bearded, spoke.
This conversation is edited, not verbatim.
 
“Makes me wonder how young folk today get by.”
I look confused – which I am.
“That’s the only jobs there are for them.” He points to the fast food court.
I indicate agreement.
“Hard to get jobs.”
“Yes, it is.”
“We’re stuck here until eight.”
I again look at him quizzically.
“Me and him. The shelter closes eight in the morning, opens again eight at night.”
“Three more hours.”
“I like the little animals.”
“Pardon?”
“Along the entrance.” He points to the Santa display. “They’ve got little animals in the snow.”
“They’re real looking.”
“Yes.” He laughs. “From the old days. I lived in the woods.”
“You did?”
“Cabin with eight brothers and sisters. Had a wood stove.”
“I had a wood stove a number of years.”
“Got real hot.”
“Yes.”
“I used Alders once.”
“In the stove?”
“Yeh – bad idea. They burn like hell. Hot as hell.”
“They can be.”
“I thought the cabin would catch fire.”
“Can be dangerous,” I agreed
“That’s where i started smoking.”
“Where?”
“In the cabin. Been smoking since I was ten.”
“That’s young.”
“My pappy was a bootlegger.”
“Yes?”
“Lots of men came by to get beer.”
“I suppose.”
“They’d smoke and toss their butts. I collected them.”
“To smoke?”
“Thought I was a big man with the other kids. Smoking in front of them.”
“That’s what being young is.”
“Cigarettes got tentacles. I still can’t get rid of them.”
[image] https: /brighttreecare.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/alders-after-storm.jpg

Santa & Me / Me & Santa

8129170-3x2-940x627

 

Although I am no fan of having the Santa Claus story take such a bite out of Christmas, I’m not against Santa Claus. In fact, we’ve had quite the relationship.

As a child, I had two ‘encounters’ with Santa. I can’t place the years, but I remember them from the houses I lived in.

The first time I would have been no older than five. I was going to the outhouse on a dark Christmas Eve. The outhouse was a couple of minutes walk from the house. On my way, I heard the bells on Santa’s sleigh. Don’t try to dissuade me, I know what I heard. I even remember the direction I had to turn to see if I could see anything. I was right quick about doing my business.

The second time would have been a couple of years later. On Christmas Day I saw the marks from Santa’s sleigh runners on the snow beside the house.  Never mind your smiles, I know what I saw.

And, a few years after that, I was with some younger friends who questioned me about the reality of Santa Claus. Now, by then I did not believe that Santa existed. But, I didn’t want to tell the “children” that. Neither did I want to lie. I don’t know how long it took me to think of a way out, but long enough (obviously) for it to remain strong in my memory. My answer was: “Well, there must be a Santa Claus. How could your parents afford all those gifts?”

In the years when I did a fair amount of house-sitting, I did so for one couple where the husband had a perfect resemblance to Santa Claus. Thus, for many a Christmas, he was the hit of local gatherings. And he had a beautiful suit and hat and – of course – a real beard.

I also know a poet whose first book was about Mrs. Claus. She is also known to dress up the part (even with a Christmas bonnet) and read at Christmas gatherings.

As for myself, one day I entered my financial institution around Christmas and got into line. As we snaked forward, I came opposite a mother and father with a young child. He looked at me and screamed (literally) “Santa Claus!” Then he burst into tears. I don’t know what troubled him (maybe I was out of uniform).

Finally, a few years ago, (and this was not around Christmas, though it was Fall) I was walking in a park. A family approached, two parents and three children. One of the boys (and he looked five or six) dashed ahead and stood in front of me. “Santa Claus,” he said. I thought it was some sort of joke, but he turned excitedly to his siblings. “It’s Santa Clause.” He was quite happy. The father said “Maybe not.” but did not really try to dissuade him.

And neither did I.

DE

(image) http://www.abc.net.au/news/image/8129170-3×2-940×627.jpg

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