Saving Christmas

by Joe Novak Wealth Manager Assistant

Recently, one of my very best friends passed away. His name was Bill and he could make you smile on a sad day and smile wider on a happy one. He had the gift of a storyteller and could create a comedic masterpiece out of something as mundane as a trip to the supermarket. I don’t have that gift. There will be no guffaws by reading further. But, if you permit me to indulge my sentimental memories, I would like to briefly outline three true holiday stories from Bill. Maybe, at least one of them will put a smile on your face.

One year, Bill was so strapped for cash that he could not afford a Christmas tree for his wife and young children. Instead, he painted a tree on the living room wall and the children decorated it with home-made construction-paper ornaments taped to it. Now, decades later, those adult children remember “wall tree” as their favorite.

One year, he arrived home on Christmas Eve, completely exhausted after working a double shift at a restaurant, to find his wife sleeping on the sofa, his three children in bed dreaming of sugarplums, and a room full of gifts ‘from Santa’ not yet wrapped. Earlier in the evening, Bill’s wife had delayed her annual tradition of wrapping presents on Christmas eve to visit the neighbors and join them for a few holiday toasts… with eggnog… the rum recipe. Tired and disgusted with the clock ticking near midnight, Bill grabbed three bedsheets from the hall closet and tackled ‘the present-wrapping tradition.’ Christmas morning, his three children ran into the living room to discover three bed-sheet sacks, one per, filled to the brim with toys and gifts. Not one was wrapped. They thought that Santa had done the greatest thing “EVER!”

And one year, he went to a drag show at a bar with some co-workers a week before Christmas and won a 20-pound ham at the midnight drawing. Walking back to his cocktail table after receiving the ham and in a fit of laughter over the absurdity of it all, Bill exclaimed, “How am I going to tell my wife where I got the ham?” An elderly widower at the next table, a stranger, dressed in a beautiful red-sequined gown, spiked heels and sparkling white bouffant wig, leaned over and said, “Tell her you won it at the Elks Club, honey. That’s what I used to tell mine!”  By Christmas day, Bill’s wife knew the true story of the ham, which was delicious and enjoyed by one and all. Included at dinner that year was a new guest, an elderly widower, no longer a stranger, dressed in a beautiful pin-striped suit sans spiked heels and wig. His name was Frank and he remained friends with Bill and his family until his passing.

May your season be filled with moments of joy that do not require money, spontaneity that causes happiness and the kindness of heart that creates unexpected friendships.