An UnChristmas Story

Don’t worry. No Red Ryder BB gun. No ghosts of Christmas past, present or future.

Waking up to the wondrous aroma of turkey and fixins in their process. Looking out the window to see a sparkling blue sky. A light dusting of snow to complete the picture. Hearing the happy sounds of children playing. Trying to make snowballs out of fresh powder. Listening to their voices anticipating presents under the beautifully decorated tree. Hearing Christmas music playing softly, competing with the distant peal of church bells. Getting out of bed thinking about the joy of the upcoming day filled with friends and family. The family dog banging her tail against the door to say welcome to this gorgeous Christmas morning.

Thanks, Norman Rockwell, I’ll take it from here.

No, I’m not going to go full-blown Dickens. But there seems to be a growing number of us who wake up with the soul-numbing loneliness, the total silence of an empty house.
“ Lord, just let me sleep through this day. I can handle the rest of them, but the thought of those happy faces is like a knife carving into my soul. It’s an agony I can’t describe or bear. The tears are welling. Please, just help me make it through the day without falling apart “ They try to think of happier days. They’re long gone. If they ever were.

T Rex (fka) Thomas King brought up the subject the day we flipped the calendar page. The usual suspects sitting around the table at the Ratcheds Senior Center. Shirley Shewill topped off the big mugs of T, the Muldoons, mayor Ben Dover and yours truly. “ Between the bug and the economy, a lot of people are hurting. Maybe we can get something going to help. Even just a little.”

Ben decided to call a meeting of the town doers. Lots of really great ideas, but we decided that Beegee had the best and most workable one. Jay and Kaye, from The Square Circle Wine Shop, would line up donations from merchants and find the right place. We are going to have a Ratcheds UnChristmas party. T and his crew would figure out who to invite and, somehow, get them there. We decided on no decorations, Christmas music nor other reminders of the day.

I’ve never seen anything like it. T drove himself and his crew with a frantic energy and got forty-seven people to the party. Jay and Kaye lined up the Senior Center for the night, along with food donations from Patsy Paisano Pizza, Sal Minella provided fish and chips, Ruby’s Rib Rack some of the best barbecue north of Texas. Bud Miller provided liquid refreshments and, of course, The Square Circle brought lots of wine. Colonel Dave and The Norman Invaders kept us dancing to the forties and fifties music.

After everyone left with a smile, I asked T what inner drive possessed him to energize the success that we just witnessed. He sat silently for a minute, and I think I saw the beginning of a tear. “ Until I met Mrs. T, I was one of those people who had problems with the holidays. Over the years we had many happy Christmas’s. One day we noticed a couple of neighbors who were going to be alone. So we opened our home to what we lovingly called “the strays “. Her idea, not mine, as she was by far the better person.

In the following years, we had many occasions to befriend people on the day. We loved every one of our strays. Some I have lost track of. Some have become lifelong friends. I have never had a happier holiday than those spent with a stray. Now that cruel fate has made me one, I have a better understanding of how it feels to be alone in the middle of everyone else’s happiness. There is simply no lonelier time than now. No matter where you go, there’s no escape. As much as you try, it infiltrates into your brain, your soul. Maybe by trying to help rescue others, I’m getting a push from Mrs. T to rescue myself. Maybe the whole thing is pure selfishness.

Well, that’s the latest from Ratcheds by the Sea. A quirky little town on the beach, where everyone is beautiful, above average, and at least one degree off-center. To all of you who had a wonderful day, give a thought to helping a stray next year. You have no idea how much light you can bring to the darkest day.

To all the strays we couldn’t reach, it’s over. You can breathe again. Hope to see you all next year.

Fred Prout

ps. You know who you are. THANK YOU

Fred Prout

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6 Responses to An UnChristmas Story

  1. Kate Bright says:

    Another positively wonderful post, Fred. And so true. Lonely? Reach out to someone who is also lonely. My parents used to invite an old lady to Sunday dinner once a month when I was a kid. Now I’m that old lady! And I am celebrating with another stray. And Ginger, of course.

  2. Valerie Carano says:

    OK Fred … You’ve done it again. Thanks!
    Love, Val

  3. Jackie Jones says:

    Fred you are a fabulous writer. Your stories simply set my mind adrift. What a wonderful way to start my day. Wishing you and Miss Kelly a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year. Love and hugs to you both our dear friend.

  4. Eric says:

    Spoke to a lady this a.m. whom I have never met – a decade, maybe a decade and a half, ago I became friendly with her husband on an online forum.

    After exchanging many, many, messages I found that he was wheelchair bound…..fell out of a window as a young guy, but went on to be a member of the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Team and traveled to places such as Israel as part of said team.

    Never met them in person since they live(d) hundreds of miles from here……he died seven years ago……I call periodically to chat… she said she felt unusually ‘down’, which is more than understandable.

    Felt bad when I hung up, but didn’t attempt to artificially cheer her up…she’d see through it and likely wouldn’t appreciate it anyhow.

    Almost everything in life is beyond our control……unfortunately.

    Hang in Fred.

  5. Joan Larson says:

    Merry Christmas, Fred!
    Keep Smiling.

  6. Edith Vondall says:

    Very true did not feel like Christmas past. Have to get with the new normal.

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