No Room

Twenty-four degrees in Carbondale…with a chill factor of 12 degrees. It was cold enough to cause pain almost immediately. Raul and Rebecca had been staying in an apartment that had been cold on a mild late fall day. The door had a wide gap along the threshold and the single- paned windows rattled as the wind shook them to the extent that Rebecca believed that the glass would break. Raul had lost his job picking fruit in the orchards of Little Egypt…and the remainder of he and Rebecca’s money had been spent on doctor’s visits as Rebecca was ‘Great with child.’ Raul was a proud man and he and Rebecca had journeyed to the United States…fleeing for their lives from the local drug lord in Guatemala…who had threatened to kill them if they would not sell drugs for him. Raul had witnessed his brother being murdered by the Drug Cartel.

Mrs. Westbrook lived upstairs and coughed inncessantly from either a cold or Covid…and Rebecca fixed her hot soup and baked bread for her neighbor. Rebecca looked in Mrs. Westbrook’s refrigerator and found one egg and a half can of dog food for her dog Bruiser…a Boston Terrier. Mrs Westbrook had been a teacher at Carbondale Grade School. She had no family left…and far less money than her monthly expenses allowed for. She often had to choose between her prescriptions or food…and her thermostat was set on 50 degrees. Bruiser was a loyal companion to Mrs Westbrook. He was 12 and had seen a lot of life. He remembered when he was two years old and he and his friend attended a Christmas dinner invitation from Beth, one of Mrs. Westbook’s former third grade pupils. His friend laughed more than he had ever seen her. She talked of old times and her years teaching and her husband, Jock, who had passed away twenty years ago…and then they came home…and warmed themselves by the fireside of their memories.

Ronnie lived in the other apartment of the three in the complex. Ronnie was somewhat autistic…but he had worked all of his life. He spent his career at first KMart and when it closed he began working at Walmart and Kroger. Ronnie always greeted everyone that he met with, ‘Greetings, my friend!’ He loved people…and he loved Jesus. His mom lived with him until her death in 1989. Ronnie lived on a small Social Secuity Check that he received monthly. He enjoyed eating peanut butter and french fries. During the Christmas Season he put out his mom’s aluminum Christmas Tree and the Nativity that he had purchased at KMart…30 years ago. He loved to watch Christmas movies on his 12 inch tube television. He had rabbit ears on his little TV…as he could not afford cable… Ronnie had a red Santa Hat that he wore during the Holidays…and for the past several years he had served as a Bell Ringer for the Salavation Army…which was a point of great personal pride for him. Ronnie did Mrs Westbrook’s grocery shopping since she had fallen ill…and he saved $50 for Rebecca to see her doctor…before her baby was born…Ronnie called the unborn baby…Baby Jesus…

Christmas Past

Jonathon and I finished putting out the Christmas Decorations. Each year when we do so…it seems that it was but a short time since we had placed them back in the Christmas Closet. I remember with great joy MJ and my careful placement of the new Nativity scene in a place of prominence in our little four-room house in Elkville, Illinois…for Aaron’s First Christmas. Christmas 1981 was a special time…we were parents…and I had searched the bungalow for the instruction manual for New Parents… The Nativity was handmade and hand-painted and it was like nothing that we had ever laid our eyes upon. In those halcyon days of our local University Mall…it was literally full of patrons and Christmas Kiosks and Holiday revilers. When we found our Nativity…we knew we were on the road to a bright parenting future… Along with the Nativity we purchased a six-foot Christmas Tree and all of the ornaments to rest upon it…many at the DuQuoin Walmart. Nothing would do for us but to buy Aaron all manner of age-appropriate toys…Fischer Price and more…but he enjoyed nothing more than the wind-up swing that he swung in for hours on end…especially at night…when he…and thus we…could not sleep.

Of the few photos that I have of my early childhood in Chicago…there is one of me sitting between my mom and dad…under an enormous Christmas Tree. The picture illustrates our holiday cheer and mom is decked out in her slacks and a Christmas Blouse with her ever-present red lipstick… Dad looks quite happy and content as the breadwinner and provider for our Holiday Revelry. I am about 3…and I remember the Christmas Photo being snapped. That Chicago Christmas was magical…as seen through the eyes of a 3-year-old. My favorite gift that year was Laughing Santa. He was a little Santa with a crank protruding out of his back that when you turned it…he laughed the most unique laugh. Laughing Santa’s annual appearance through the ongoing Christmases resulted in my affinity for the Jolly Old Elf…to this day.

Teddy Ruxpin Christmas was special in remembering the short life of Mr. Ruxpin. Jonathon had asked for the Talking Teddy Bear…Teddy Ruxpin for some time. MJ and I were so pleased that we had one for him to open on Christmas Morning. When he saw the mysterious bear who could talk and his mouth moved to illustrate that he was really saying the words that were on the cassettes tape that fit in a player in his back…he was mesmerized… Teddy was the height of 1980’s technology. As we sat enjoying our Christmas Wassail…Jonathon entered with a question…why wouldn’t Teddy Talk? In an effort to cause Mr. Ruxpin to speak more rapidly…Jonathon had accidentally removed his lower lip…

Santa Is…Missing

It became clear on Sunday, November 28th that Santa was missing. Clarence…his valet and special assistant had gone to wake him at the customary time…and he was not in his massive mahogany bed. He and Mrs. Claus slept in separate bedrooms due to Santa’s habit of loud snoring. Mrs. Claus was not herself without her usual 10 hours of sack time. However, since it was less than a month to Christmas…both of the Claus has been working 18 hour days…and Santa…at times slept on a hideaway bed in his office that is adjacent to the Toy Factory. He had recently hired his first two children as his Special Assistants in Charge of Toy Satisfaction…

Billy B. and Chet had applied for the jobs last Christmas but due to the Pandemic, they were not able to join the Toy Production Team at the North Pole. But this morning…they were the first two people that Clarence reported to…that Santa was neither in his Big Bed…nor sleeping in his office and that the last time he was seen was at noon yesterday. Yesterday around 9:00 A:M: Santa had told Jane, his factory floor manager, that he was not feeling well and thought that he might go and get a Covid test to ensure that he did not have the virus. Humphrey, the elf in charge of packaging and shipping, said that Santa had told him that he was so cold that he felt, ‘Chilled to the bone.’ Humphrey went on to speculate that Santa might have gone to Florida to warm up…

Suddenly, Daryl walked into Santa’s Office with his dad, The Wiz, and he suggested that they take a couple of reindeer to Destin, Florida to determine if Santa was at his condo on Miramar Beach. It was an established fact that Santa loved Miramar Beach and his condo. He spent at least 3 months per year enjoying the ocean and the wonderful warm sunshine…which eased the arthritic pain that he suffered…especially as he had gotten older. It was out of character for Santa to leave the North Pole prior to his work on Christmas Day…but then again…everything had been different during the Pandemic.

Toy Satisfaction came with a Toy Bag Full of Responsibility… Chet and Billy B. quickly agreed that The Wiz had a good idea and they subsequently all climbed into Santas personal sleigh that he used for quick trips to individual children…usually those who were ill…or very sad…and they flew to Destin. Jane joined them…and in the blink of an eye…they were there. You see the Santa Sleighs all ran on Santa Magic and Yuletide Good Cheer…which was very fast…indeed! They knocked on the door to Santa’s condo…and out came Mrs. Claus. She said that they were just getting ready to return to the North Pole and had flown to Destin…for an overnighter to visit Santa’s Doctor to take the Covid Test…and then take a dip in the Ocean and sometime in the Hot Tub…

Chet was awakened by his pastor closing the Sunday Church Service with a Blessing for the Congregation. There was his mom, Thelma, and Billy B. and Jane and Daryl and The Wiz…and Santa…sitting on the corner pew…winking at him…and disappearing…

Lemp Mansion

Thanksgiving was a lovely event with Ron and Ira Kaye joining us in the festivities. There was smoked turkey and dressing and cherry pie and pecan…as well. The family favorite of Brocolli Casserole…made an appearance and Green Bean Casserole… her companion. Ira Kaye brought some wonderful bread and MJ made well-buttered mash potatoes to complete the ensemble. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was on all televisions and that followed by The National Kennel Club Dog Show. Baileys Irish Cream for our coffee and vodka for our orange juice…kept us in the holiday spirit.

Yesterday we attempted to recreate our wonderful experience of a Ghost Tour in Edinburgh, Scotland…by attending a Ghost Tour of the Lemp Brewery in St. Louis, Missouri. We had a delicious dinner at the Lemp Mansion. ‘The Lemp Mansion is a historical house in Benton Park, St. Louis, Missouri. It is also the site of three suicides by Lemp family members after the death of the son Fredrick Lemp, whose William J. Lemp Brewing Co. dominated the St. Louis beer market before Prohibition with its Falstaff beer brand. The mansion is said to be haunted by members of the Lemp family.’ ‘According to the Missouri History Museum, Life Magazine included the Lemp Mansion in an article on America’s nine most haunted houses in 1980.’ Wikipedia

Last night we took a tour of the neighborhood surrounding the Lemp Mansion and the Lemp Brewery and concluded the tour by going into 4 of the Lemp Brewery Basements. The Tour included information regarding one of the residents of the neighborhood…being a prime suspect for Jack the Ripper… Also discussion about a serial killer in the 1980s murdering his victims in the basements that we were standing in… The excellent presentation regarding the Lemp Family was the best part of the Tour and was the highlight of the event and it took place on a very cold evening outside the Lemp Mansion.

As I lay in bed last night I wondered…what possessed me to want to spend the night in a haunted house. I was reminded of the funny movie with the actor, Don Knotts, ‘The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. The suites were a fantastic representation of 19th Century Architecture. Our Tour Guide spoke of learning that one of the women that was murdered by the serial killer during the 1980s had been kept in what was called the pit…and we were standing in close proximity to it. He went on to say that once when he was in the area alone he heard a voice which told him, ‘Don’t Leave.’ When he subsequently began to leave he heard…’ Stay.’ A few years ago he said that he had a Psychic Researcher who specialized in auditory psychic research…who told him that the spirit of a young woman had told her that she was kept captive in a white room. At that time the Tour Guide said that he had been in every room that he had access to and that there was no ‘White Room.’ Two years later he gained access to additional parts of the Brewery and discovered a white-tiled room that had been the vault of the Brewery.

Turkey Tomorrow

The wind is blowing 22 miles per hour and is forecast to gust at 40 – 45 miles per hour…later today. A change in the weather is on its way. MJ has been busy in the kitchen all morning…’And I haven’t touched a single bite.’ I remember the wonderful Thanksgivings that we had in our little four-room house in Elkville, Illinois. Many of the participants are no longer with us. One year we had 22 people…in four rooms…and it was grand and glorious. Grandpas Berl and Earl would be in the corner comparing war stories. Mary Jane and Ron and Tara would regale us with stories of Tara’s Volleyball games and tell us when and where we could go to watch her play…and she was a terrific volleyball player! Grandma Neva June would enjoy a shot of rum…and sometimes 2 shots of the brown elixir. Mrs. Moore was sitting and smiling and enjoying every minute of the Thanksgiving Celebration. Aaron and Jonathon were but wee children and they were excited about everything. We ruminated about our Black Friday plans…that almost always entailed a trip to St. Louis to shop…and in later years to St. Charles, Missouri to see Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim and Mr. Scrooge…and Santa Claus from all over the world…

MJ’s love for Thanksgiving made each celebration…special. It is her favorite holiday of the year. When I looked at each smiling face and felt the happiness of every member of our Feast…I knew that God was in his Heaven…and all was right with the world. So often we are divided by petty differences like political affiliations or choice of churches…when there is much more that unites us than will ever divide us. Thanksgiving is a Torch Bearer of Light…that illuminates the darkness of our concerns and suffering…and worries about tomorrow. Each year in that little house in Elkville…I felt like that I lived in a Castle…

Love was in abundance…we would not have it any other way. After dutifully watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade…then came the Kennel Club Dog Show and the Christmas Classic, Its A Wonderful Life.’ Sometimes cards would be removed from the desk drawer and games of Rummikub. Jake and Josh would come over to see what Aaron and Jonathon were up to…or Aaron and Jonathon would go to their house which was just around the corner. I grew up with Jake and Josh’s dad, David, and my heartfelt sorrow and prayers are with him and Josh… following the tragic news that Jake lost his life… this past Sunday… Jake was such a wonderful young man…so full of happiness and the exuberance of living. He had a giant heart and love for all…he reminded me so much of his dad…

Look to your right and you’re left this year…love everyone that you see…we are all temporary visitors in this world…cherish every minute…

Thomas Turkey’s…Point Of View

Logan’s Farm was buzzing with excitement. Grace Goose had been honking all morning about the upcoming Thanksgiving Day Dinner and the fact that this year…instead of the two customary Thanksgiving meals…one for the animals and one for the people…there was to be one combined feast… Todie…Thomas Turkey’s wife…had been chatting with Paula Pig and Paula had said that it was really true and that there would be one long table for all of the farm’s inhabitants to sit at and break bread together. Peter, Paula’s brother, came out of the barn and said, ‘It is not right…people and pigs are not meant to eat together…why it has not been that long ago that people were still eating…pigs!’

Barney Boston Terrier had begun the discussion with Logan and Lucinda regarding the combined Thanksgiving Party. Barney lived in the house with the Larues and he slept with them in their bed. Peter Pig even, snidely whispered, that he had seen Barney perched on the human toilet seat and when he had completed his job…he flushed the…’shitter.’ Peter had heard the term ‘shitter’ on the movie Christmas Vacation when Cousin Eddie was emptying his chemical toilet into the storm drain in front of Clark Griswold’s house. Peter told Paula that if they did attend the human Thanksgiving…he certainly would not use their ‘shitter.’

Daffy and Donald…Duck…were in the midst of a lively quacking discussion. ‘Will we get to sit at the fine dining room table’, asked Daffy? Donald sputtered and replied, ‘They will probably throw us some Duck Feed on the basement floor and push us down the steps…and lock the basement door!’ Daffy said, ‘I have always liked humans…and especially Logan and Lucinda…do you remember the nice neck scarfs that they got for us last Christmas?’ ‘I like them too…but when I smell them it makes me sneeze…I think it is the human perfume,’ said Donald.

Along came Sylvester Sloth. He seemed to be in a hurry…but it was very difficult to tell. Sylvester yawned and smiled…for a long time…and then he said, ‘I was here when Lucinda was ill with Covid…and almost died…and I sat by her bed each night so Logan could get some sleep…Logan told me that he loved me…and I cried…’

‘Come and get it,’ Lucinda bellowed from the front porch that encircled the entire house. Up came Grace Goose leading the way. When she got to the front door she asked, ‘What is the main dish?’ ‘Goose,’ said Lucinda…Tofu Goose… Logan invited Peter Pig to sit next to him and the two got on famously…so much so that they enjoyed cigars after dinner…in the den…and Peter asked where the restroom was…with a large grin on his cherubic face. Sylvester sat on Lucinda’s lap…with a wide smile on his face…as she fed him grapes. Donald sneezed and asked Logan to please pass the oyster dressing.

Thomas and Todie seemed especially satisfied with the magnificent Horn of Plenty. Barney the Boston Terrier began tapping his wine glass with his knife and calling, ‘Speech…speech…Thomas…’ Thomas arose from the goodie laden table and said, ‘I have often heard that if we would all just set down and break bread together…and learn of each other…we could live in peace on the earth that God has given us.’ Thomas went on to say that his ancestors had been the Thanksgiving Dinner for hundreds of years…but today had convinced him that there is a better way…

Barney laughed and said…’Wait until you start sleeping on a Beauty Rest Mattress…

Open Your Heart

Thanksgiving cold has landed on Little Egypt. The low temperature is forecast for 22 degrees…tonight. I like the cold…but not as much as I used to. At one time in our much earlier years…MJ and I considered moving north when we retired…but now we are happy in Southern Illinois. Below 0 temperatures do not excite me. The lovely leaves have almost all fallen to the ground. A few are holding on for dear life…much as we humans do. It has been said that ‘hope spring eternal,’ and I have found this to be true…but you must open your heart to receive hope.

Nature assists me in the hope department. When I see the glories of God’s creation and ponder my little place in his Grand Design…I am filled with hope…once again. Hope is a bit like your automobile…it runs out of gas and must be refilled on a regular basis. Recently I have seen the most beautiful carpets of leaves on the ground. Leaves of gold and red and yellow…seemed to be illuminated by the Sun. As I walked the Campus of Southen Illinois University @ Carbondale this morning…an old friend saw me and came up and gave me a hug and commented how they had not seen me for some time and how happy that they were to see me. Suddenly I was full of hope and the bright promise of tomorrow. I reminisced on the many Thanksgiving Weeks that I had been employed at the University. They were by and large happy weeks. Everyone was in the spirit of the holidays…and the preparing of their Thanksgiving Turkeys. Many years ago I was talking with a couple of members of the skilled crafts and one mentioned that he was going to smoke his Turkey while the other gentleman said that he was going to drink his…’Wild Turkey Whiskey!’ The Campus was a Ghost Town just prior to Thanksgiving. Just a handful of staff…here and there…thinking about the year past and their hopes for a better year to come.

Advent begins this Sunday. The patient hope for all Christians…that Jesus is to be born…and peace will reign throughout the land.

‘Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will perform this.’ Isaiah 9:7. KJV

‘And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Revelation 21:4. KJV

Macy’s Thanksgiving…Surprise

The Event of the Day…began early on Thanksgiving morning. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was televised from New York City… Billy B. got up early for the spectacular balloons and to see Santa Claus at the conclusion of the Parade. As usual Chet was coming over to watch the parade with him…and Jane and Daryl had been invited also. Neva J. had made Holiday Egg Nog and her Famous Coffee Cake. Billy B.’s neighbor…Lanny…had stopped by for just a few minutes for a piece of Coffee Cake…and a bit of Nog…which after drinking it he whispered to Billy B….’You will really like the egg nog…this Thanksgiving!’ Jane arrived dressed as a Pilgrim and Daryl came shortly after dressed as an Indian Chief. Chet commented that the Egg Nog was especially rich this year…and Jane asked for another cup as her cheeks became scarlet in color and her smile widened to a happy grin…

The humongous balloons were fascinating to behold. They swayed in the Manhattan breeze and it appeared to take many people holding on to ropes that were attached to the giant cartoon figures to keep them in their relative place and not hitting light poles or buildings as they marched in front of the Macy’s Store. Junior looked in on the kids and took a swig of Nog and said, ‘Damn…that is quality Nog you are serving, my dear!’ Neva J. already had the six-foot aluminum Christmas Tree erected and the colored light wheel spinning and shining on it. Along came Rocky The Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose…and Billy B. wondered what it would be like to fly with them above the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade…and see all of the people from such a lofty height…

Jane laughed heartily as she held on to Rocky’s large neck. She said that usually she was afraid of high places…but not today… Billy B. held on to Bullwinkle’s antlers…and wondered what had happened? Daryl called from below as he held a rope for Rocky and Chet held a rope for Bullwinkle…’ Isn’t this what you wished for Billy B.?’ At about this time Jane lost her hold on Rocky’s neck and began falling toward the ground. Billy B. let go of Bullwinkle and fell to save her.

Neva J. said, ‘What are you silly kids doing,’ as Jane and Billy B. lay on the floor in front of the TV. ‘And where is Daryl and Chet,’ Neva J. asked.

Chet called out in an excited and frightened manner, ‘Where are we going, Daryl?’ Daryl replied as he held tightly to the rope connected to Rocky The Flying Squirel and looked over at Chet holding tightly to his Bullwinkle rope, ‘Bullwinkle and Rocky have invited us to the Land of Aesop’s Fables…and Rocky says that we will land soon…’

November 22, 1963

Billy B. and Chet were on the playground. Mrs. Kittinger came out to where her first-grade class was playing and gathered them together. She said that she had had terrible news…President Kennedy had been shot and had been rushed to the hospital in Dallas, Texas. She had tears in her eyes. Billy B. had just moved to Eldorado, Illinois…he was from Chicago. Chet said, ‘That does not sound good,’ and called his mom, Thelma. Billy B. did not have a telephone in his home…which he called the ghost house…as it was haunted. Billy B. had seen more than his share of change in 1963. His mom and dad, Neva J., and Junior had moved to Eldorado in a vain attempt to save their marriage. Junior had been a mechanic for Semi Trailers in Chicago and wanted to open his own Mechanic Shop in Eldorado. They had moved in with Neva J.’s sister, Wanda, and her family. Both families shared the large Victorian white house that was just across from Eldorado High School. Billy B.’s room was in a forgotten utility closet that was just wide enough to accommodate his Twin Bed. The first morning that he awakened he was colder than he had ever been…inside a house. The coal furnace had ceased to provide any warmth and the multiple fireplaces…had gone out. When he arrived at Hillcrest School for his first day…he discovered that almost all of his classmates had been to Kindergarten…but him.

Neva J. loved President Kennedy. When Billy B. arrived home, as school was cancelled as soon as the news of the assassination of the President came out…shortly after 1:00 P:M: Neva J. was crying so hard that Billy B. thought that JFK, as his mom called the President, was a member of their family. Everyone that Billy B. knew seemed to be extremely confident in their President. After the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962…many felt that with Kennedy in the White House…no harm would come to them. Chet remembered his dad, Carol digging a bomb shelter in their back yard in Parrish Addition…and their practicing hurrying to the shelter…in the middle of the night…pretending that the Soviet Union had dropped nuclear bombs on Eldorado… Chet kept some of his favorite Action Figures in the Bomb Shelter…in the event that nuclear annihilation was coming.

Life in Eldorado…seemed to change after JFK was killed. There wasn’t the exhuberence that there had been. People walked more slowly. Russia seemed very scary…again. The embers of the hopes of ending racism…seemed to dim… President Kennedy told us, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you…ask what you can do for your country’…but our mentor was gone…it was difficult to see pathway forward…

Hope is the strangest of animals. It comes to us as bold as a lion…and leaves us as meek as a lamb. We witness the brilliance of the Sun…and then the darkest of clouds obscures our view…until we forget what the Sun looked like…

Christmas 1957

Several inches of snow lay upon the ground in the Windy City. The temperature was 5 degrees and every crack and crevice of the apartment that Neva J. and Bill lived in blew cold air into their little home. The streets of the magnificent city were festooned with splendid Christmas decorations. There were Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus and snowmen and Christmas Trees. At night the Christmas lights showed so bright that it appeared to still be the day. Neva J.’s sisters were making the trip from Southern Illinois to Chicago to see their Baby Sister and Junior…and the new Baby…Billy B. Neva J. had gone to Woolworth Drug Store and purchased a resplendent Aluminum Christmas Tree…which was all the rage in 1957. Along with the Christmas Tree she bought the electric color wheel to rotate and shine its many colors onto the shiny aluminum. Billy B. would be two months old Christmas Eve. Guelda and Wanda and Vema had all purchase gifts for the new nephew. Wanda did not drive and Guelda and Vema had never driven in Chicago…so they took the train…and Junior was going to meet them at the Train Station. When they departed from the six-hour train ride…there was Junior dressed as Santa Claus. ‘He was adorned from his head to his foot…but instead of a pipe held tightly in his teeth’…he had a Pall Mall Cigarette. The apartment had a hideaway bed that pulled down from its covey in the living room wall. There was also a nice sectional couch that was covered in plastic from top to bottom. Guelda and Wanda would sleep on the pull-down-wall-bed…and Vema would sleep on the sectional.

Vema asked Junior how he protected himself and Neva J. and Baby Billy B. in such a dangerous city. Junior pulled back his red coat and revealed a pistol. Wanda and Guelda…upon inspection of the hideaway bed announced that they could not sleep on it…as it did not have the proper lumbar support. Vema told Neva J. that she was looking a little heavy and that she had better get to work on her weight…or she would be a big as a barn. Then…Vema inquired why Billy B. was not talking…yet? Junior left the loving sisters and proceeded to continue decorating the apartment…as he took Christmas…very seriously. Neva J. announced that they were all going to go to the movies on Maxwell Street…and see It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. The Orpheum Theatre on Maxwell played the Holiday Classic each Christmas Season…on December 24th. The movie was intended to remind those viewing it that although they had worries and cares…they still had wonderful lives.

Maxwell Street was vibrant with the strobing lights of the theatres and the Christmas Decorations and the many vendors of goods…Holiday and other goods….that Maxwell is famous for. Just at the door of the Theatre was an old gentleman who was selling what he called…Laughing Santas…and Neva J. bought one for Baby Billy B. When Billy B. saw his Christmas Eve Gift…he smiled and giggled and wiggled his toes. As the movie began…Wanda said that her feet hurt. Vema noted that the ticket price of fifty cents was outrageous…and Guelda commented that she had seen the movie several times before when she lived in St. Louis. Junior said, ‘Ladies…you did not pay for the tickets…I did,’ and the three looked at him as if he came from another world… When the part came where Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey wished that he had never been born…Neva J…secretly wished the same for her magpie sisters…who with her best efforts…she could never please…

Junior and Neva J. and their Baby Billy B….walked out of the Orpheum with their hearts filled with Holiday Cheer and their profound hope for the future. Before taking the taxi back to their lovely decorated apartment…they had a cup of Apple Cider at a vendor’s kiosk. Neva J. thought for a moment that something seemed to be missing…and then she laughed to herself and knew that this could not be true…as she was so happy…

Santa…laughed from inside his box…