I never liked holidays. I lived a very unhappy childhood and when a holiday came around my thrice divorced mother would try to force me to “be happy.” One year as a teen I didn’t want to participate in a toast or clinking of glasses at a Christmas celebration, I just refused. My two brothers and I were allowed one non-clothes Christmas gift each year and that year I had been told I would need to contribute 50% towards my gift, a GAF Super 8 movie camera and projector if I really wanted it. My share was $40 and I did odd jobs around the neighborhood to earn it. My mostly-absent father worked as a television/radio repairman back when electronics were worth repairing so from him I would get something that wasn’t really repairable. One birthday it was a stereo cabinet that had all the guts removed except the speakers and my father had soldered in a plug so I could play my transistor radio through those speakers. At 17 I joined the Navy to get away from home. Many years later I still hate holidays but working with kids I have found making the holidays memorable for them gives me some enjoyment. This year was the third time I’ve been asked to play Santa Claus. It’s hard to fool kids who look you in the eye every day so putting on the hat and beard doesn’t fool them but if your waving a free gift or a cheap candy cane in their direction they usually play along. This year the crowd also included little kids. The kind that really believe. I did my best even with the little ones that cried and kicked as you could see in their teary eyes they believed in Santa. Just for a few minutes that night my heart, like the Grinch’s grew three sizes. It’s when I got home to my little trailer on the outskirts of town; as I removed the trappings of the man who only lives in the dreams of kids and Madison Avenue executives did it hit me. I’m old and alone. This Christmas like most of those since leaving home I spent alone. I gave up decorating years ago when my son stopped coming for visits. This will be my second Christmas since being laid off. Times are tough. What money I had been able to save I had to fork over to my landlord as a “new” cleaning deposit. If I could do it all over again I would join my family in raising a toast of goodwill and happiness. Who knows what that might of have brought to my life? It certainly couldn’t have made it worse.

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Comments

thestoryteller Dec. 29, 2009 @ 12:28 a.m.

Very good, Pete S. You may have a winner here. I've been very depressed today about getting older. Almost everyone I used to know is now dead. Tried to get ahold of Barry White's manager today, thought I'd ask him for an interview. I bet he had many good stories about the old music business. I knew him when I was a kid in Hollywood. Turns out he died at the beginning of the year.

I had eye reconstruction due to skin cancer in November. I'm 51 and the other patients in the plastic surgeon's office were in their 70s and 80s. Same thing at Southwest Cancer Care where I go as a breast cancer survivor. The other patients are older than my parents. Somehow, I managed to get gypped...

Grandpa used to say, "Don't ever get old." Now I know why.

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skennerl Dec. 29, 2009 @ 5:16 a.m.

Hey storyteller - 51 isn't old! That is just middle aged! I wouldn't want to have your Grandpa's attitude to growing older! His advice is almost as bad as that of my Grandfather who would jingle the coins in his pocket and advise... "this is your best friend". Sad advice hey!

I hope to grow old and get wiser and wiser! The difficult thing for me about age, and I am around your age storyteller, is realising how much there is that I don't know, despite knowing quite a bit!

I am sorry you seemed to have lost a lot of friends rather young - which I gather as you say almost everyone you know is dead. But celebrate that you are still alive - that the sky is blue and the grass is green!

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skennerl Dec. 29, 2009 @ 5:24 a.m.

And Pete - nice story. If it is auto-biographical then perhaps you might organise something next Christmas (or before - why not!) with your family or friends.

You don't look that old either!!!! What's with all these young people claiming to be old!!!

Your have to be 80 to qualify!!!

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thestoryteller Dec. 30, 2009 @ 9:27 p.m.

Thanks skennerl. Bad health has made me feel old. I'm falling apart more and more every day. 4 major surgeries since 2004, and now my knees are going.

I was once engaged to a guy who was a year older than my dad. Almost every one of his friends is dead from old age, sickness or drugs. Most of them were in the music biz and their music is still played on the radio (the oldies stations, of course) and it's terribly depressing to hear it. My kid says they are haunting me. It's true. Whatever advantage I had in knowing them wasn't worth having to hear about their tragic deaths later.

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skennerl Jan. 1, 2010 @ 8:16 a.m.

That's a hard one - do you turn the radio off? Play another station? Good luck with your knees - I suppose knee replacement ops are the next in line for you - there are so many of these joint replacement ops these days.

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