By Allan McNew
On the Friday morning before Christmas of 2018, I had just speared a chunk of potato with my fork in a Banning restaurant when I noticed that Stephanie, a waitress in that establishment, was festooned with Christmas ornamentation. As she was passing my table I said “You’re looking mighty festive”. She stopped and bent towards me, looked straight into my eyes with her face radiating wide eyed conviction, and with full emphasis half whispered “I love Christmas.” Stephanie then told me about playing Christmas music and how her house and yard was decorated, it sounded like a lot of work. So I asked “Who puts all that stuff out?” Without hesitation she replied “My husband.” That transported me back more than twenty years ago to another holiday season.
“Dan” was an iron willed manager at a company where I once worked. I never worked under his direction nor even met him during that time, but his reputation spanned the miles to the districts where I had worked for that company. The tales intimated an iron willed tyrant, a veritable roughshod scourge of perceived slackers, shirkers and the not fully compliant. I didn’t meet him until after he retired and I left that company for a multi-state work odyssey. Upon returning to California I met his daughter and she and I began living together.
It was with amazement and much concealed amusement that I observed the dynamics between “Catherine’s” father and mother. Catherine’s tiny mother would bark at the large framed old man and his head would figuratively ricochet off the ceiling as he practically leaped from his chair to do her bidding. It was so different from what I had heard about him in the work place.
It was Saturday on the weekend of Thanksgiving when Catherine and I were visiting and Catherine’s mother said “Dan, it’s time to put out the Christmas decorations.” The old man shot me a hunted look and beckoned me to follow him to the garage. He proceeded with all the enthusiasm of a dead man walking. Upon entering the garage he opened cabinet after cabinet crammed full of Christmas decorations, it was like being shown the contents of a warehouse.
The next time Catherine and I visited, the entire property was packed with manger scenes, Santa and his reindeer, elves, you name it and it was there. Disney couldn’t have outdone that project.
I don’t remember that Christmas itself, but on another visit next spring long after the holiday scenery had been laboriously taken down and put away, Dan took me to the patio, picked up a chair and set it next to another chair in what was obviously a special place located under a hummingbird feeder. We both sat down, and I observed the look of sheer delight and content on Dan’s face as he sat motionless while hummingbirds flitted around him and occasionally landed on him.
Maybe that’s where the old man found his peace.