Christmas Eve brings back many memories to us all …and one special one returns every year to me.
Christmas Eve was the best day of the holiday season for my family as all the relatives gathered together, usually at our house - with food, fun, music and friends running in and out. It was my favorite day…but this particular year was my first Christmas as a member of the workforce.
My first job was in the card shop in E W Edwards Department Store in Syracuse and Edward’s was the busiest card shop downtown. I worked with an older woman who had worked in the department for years. Doris was a wonderful woman who helped people and who was very kindhearted. She and I learned to ring over the top of each other on the register so that we could help people get through the line faster.
This one particular night was a cold Christmas Eve, and my bus was to arrive 10 minutes after the closing of the store…and I was ready to roll. Trouble was you couldn’t cash out or leave until all of the customers were gone.
The store lights blinked as usual denoting the closing of the store, but Doris kept on talking to these 5 bedraggled looking people who kept handing a card back and forth amongst themselves. This went on and I kept walking up and down waiting to cash out and getting more nervous by the minute that I was going to miss the bus that meant have to wait for the Clover and walk an extra half-mile home.
Finally after what seemed like and eternity Doris rang them out….one 25 cent card…one miserable card had caused me to miss by bus and make me get home very late for the festivities!
As they left and we started cashing out and I snapped at her about it and she turned on her heal and looked at me…her glance was more serious than I had ever seen….”Are you going home to a nice warm house with family, food and friends?” she snapped. “Well of course”, I replied. “Well they don’t have homes…they are homeless…and they bought a card because the man at the hotel behind here is going to let them stay and sit with their friends until midnight…and they are all going to share the card!” She stopped and pointed up town, “Then they are going to the church for midnight Mass where they can stay for a while…and then if they are lucky…. they will be picked up by a Rescue Mission or Salvation Army Van and be taken somewhere to warm and eat!!!”
I was silenced. I waited in the freezing cold and wind for the bus and thought about the lesson I had learned, something us well fed lucky people never think about on Christmas Eve…a lesson I have never forgotten to this day.
When I arrived home and started wrapping a few presents I sat near the tree and cried…I realized I had lost my innocence.