K. Mennem 6:15 p.m., May 21
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.