Friday, December 30, 2011
I had a really nice Christmas. I was especially aware of this this year, because the way the holiday fell, I had to work Christmas Eve and had pretty much decided that would preclude getting together with the family, even though for various reasons, I really wanted to do that this year. But my sister was kind enough to drive down to Santa Cruz and pick me up after work and so I was able to go on a rather madcap adventure around the state spending time with many people I care about. There were many elements to all this, but I thought I would mention one here in particular.
My sister as usual decided that it was not enough to pick me up in Santa Cruz and stay up late wrapping presents. She also wanted to throw her semitraditional Christmas Day brunch. She makes a souffle and sausage but as there was another guest coming she thought she'd also make a trifle. A trifle is not really a trifle to make, it has a lot of things in it and a lot of layers. Fruit and whipped cream feature heavily. As usual, I thought it was a tad over ambitious and as usual, she ignored me, much to my benefit, as it turned out.
Everything actually went very smoothly so we opened presents and the guest arrived and we shared a very nice meal and good conversation. It was a beautiful sunny California winter day, and the trifle looked gorgeous on the well set table and we dug in with appetite and really nothing could have been better. We even had Christmas crackers, and the little trinkets inside seemed apropos.
The doorbell rang and we were saying goodbye to the friend while my sister answered the door and stood there talking to someone. She stood there for a long while and though I was curious I was also distracted, so didn't think much about it till she came into the dining room, followed by a young guy, barely out of high school. "This is Nicholas," she said. We said hello, somewhat perplexed, as I had never heard of him before. He was smiling, and had merry eyes. The odd thing--and it will sound like some sort of literary device,though it isn't--but for some reason, he had the white fringe of a Santa Claus suit around the ankle of one leg. He said he had found it in a trash can at the St. Vincent de Paul.
My sister went out to the kitchen and got him a tin of the Christmas cookies she had made and we made small talk with him while he waited. After he had said goodbye, we looked at my sister and she told us his story. He was a foster kid who had aged out of the system two weeks before he had finished high school and was now homeless. He had come around to her door a few times before, looking for work, and she had given him some small tasks to do. He was happy because he had gotten a sleeping bag and maybe a place to sleep at night.
When you work in retail, you can feel a bit put upon during the holiday season. It is easy enough to understand that you're part of the "the 99%" a lot of that time, but there are other moments when you realize that by other standards, you are also part of the one percent, which merely means "lucky".
Nicholas left, though I'm sure he'll be back. And my sister will undoubtedly try to figure out some way that he can be helped to find work and a GED. There are a few ideas floating around all ready. After he had gone, we all looked at each other, a bit ashamed of our good fortune. My sister looked at the table, seeing it as he would have seen it.
"Oh!" she said. "I should have given him some trifle!"