She’s a devout if generic Bible believer. Not a Baptist or a Lutheran, she has faith in the words. She makes a birthday cake for Jesus every year. There’s a Christmas Eve service at a local church, but her son-in-law stops her on the way out the door. They’ll go to mass, all of them- a family.
“I’m no Catholic! I don’t know your rituals!”
“Oh, you’ll be fine,” he replies, “Just go on and take the sacrament. How the hell will they know you’re not Catholic?”
He stalks off to find a tie and her daughter whispers an aside. He hasn’t been to Mass (not even on Christmas!) for years. He’s only doing it because she’s here. The woman laughs merrily. Imagine! Her, at a Catholic Mass!
Roma, Billy and Mariann are in their nineties, living in a home made especially for their infantile bones. They are adopted from an office giving tree.
Roma wants a baby doll to cuddle, to hold, to mother. Her face is sunken, her eyes are vacant. She mumbles a single grouse, wants to be left alone. She clutches the doll to her chest.
Billy has a boner– it’s impolite but it’s honest. It could be from the chocolate gift or the pretty young women unwrapping the sweet treats for him. Suffice it to say, he’s having a very pleasant holiday.
Mariann is feisty. Her nails are polished, bright coral against her pleated aqua pants. Her hair is permed and her expression is clear. She’s socializing with her friends, in the middle of a puzzle. “These pieces are too big! But, you know, it keeps us off the streets and out of the bars!” She is delightful.
They don’t remember their visitors the next day, but they hold onto dolls, the sweet taste of chocolate and the warmth of new sweaters.
The busiest shopping time of the entire year is the afternoon of Christmas Eve. American consumerism and Christmas commercialism collide in a frenzied need to find the last present for a forgotten relative.
Picture this: a man and a woman, strangers meeting in a shopping aisle. They have loose skin, gentle folds, a lifetime of laugh lines, crow’s feet taking flight against bright eyes.
He looks for a small gift for his fourteen year old granddaughter. He skips the make-up aisle, even though she asked for a sparkly shadow. She’s already too cozy with her eighth grade boyfriend. He stares at stuffed animals, though she’s really too old.
She retired a year ago, but found herself bored between book clubs and volunteer hours. She works part time at the drugstore, and points him to the sock monkeys. She’s always liked sock monkeys- the granddaughter will like the brown more than the grey, she says. It’s the one she would choose, she’s always secretly wanted a sock monkey of her own.
Smiling they part ways, the widower and the divorcee. He takes the brown sock monkey to the register. A gift card for his granddaughter, he leaves the monkey with the manager. A secret Santa gift, he says, for the kind woman with the sparkling name tag. He has a feeling she isn’t too old.