Daddy came home with a dozen trees strapped and loaded on his truck. He had a bagful of gifts in the passenger seat.
He rolled his window down.
“Better hurry,” he yelled to me, spitting sunflower seeds. “Got a lot to do tonight.”
I sat in the front seat with my hands on the heater. The radio played Nat King Cole. No matter how old I get, I’m hard pressed to recall fonder memories.
We rounded the corner into a mobile-home park. It was dark. People had decorated homes with Christmas lights of every color.
We pulled into a driveway with no lights. Daddy brought out two Santa hats. Mine was too big. So was his.
He read from a clipboard. “First delivery is Billy Adams,” he said.
So, I dug through the bag for boxes addressed to Billy.
We walked to the porch and beat on the door, Daddy carried the balsam fir in a bear hug. A man answered.
Daddy asked, “You Mister Billy Adams?”
The man looked uneasy, so Daddy explained the whole thing. About how our church donated trees and gifts to people who signed up to receive help during the holidays. He used plenty of charm to get his point across.
The man looked offended. “My name isn’t Billy,” he said. “I didn’t sign up for help, and I don’t need no damn tree.”
Then he slammed the door.
Daddy put his boot in the door jamb. “But Mister Adams, maybe your wife signed you up.”
“Impossible. She’s dead.”
“Well,” Daddy said, peeking inside. “Looks like you ain’t got a tree, seems to me you could use one.”
“Don’t want a tree.”
“And we got presents, too. Nothing fancy, just a bunch’a fruitcakes.”
A blatant lie. The boxes contained no fruitcakes, only heavenly confections that our church ladies baked. Brownies, cookies, and God’s gift to mankind: fudge.
“I don’t want presents,” the man said, pushing the door shut.
Daddy pushed harder. “Now Mister Adams, have a heart. If you don’t accept this, my boss-man’s gonna make me pay for it.”
Lie number two.
Daddy was a volunteer.
Without another word, Daddy busted through the door with the tree, saying, “How about we put it in this corner?”
The man hollered, “I didn’t sign up for any tree!”
A boy walked into the living room. He was about my age. He wore matching pajamas—the very kind you don’t want your buddies knowing about.
The kid locked eyes on the tree. His face lit up like sunlight.
“OH MY GOD! IT’S HERE!” the boy shouted.
My daddy squatted down to the kid’s eye-level. He handed him a box, then put his hat on the boy’s head.
“Well now,” he said. “You must be Billy.”
I miss Daddy at Christmas.
robert henderson - December 3, 2016 11:34 am
Brother, men like your dad and mine were cut from the same piece of clothing. My dad was a Mason,and we would host a pancake breakfast twice a year and do a Masonic Christmas for parents and kids in December and we would cookand serve them dinner, then Santa would come walking down stairs They had an old, wooden floor building that cricked with every step, and as a matter of fact, it still stands today.
The kids were all with their parents, like your friend Billy, wide eyed and glowing because Santa came to see only THEM at the special place only MEMBERS can go.
I really didn’t understand it then, but as I got older it clicked and man we really got into it, pop and I would serve the food with several other members and their kids, and refill drinks, hang out with folks and as for me, I met new people all the time but the county as it is on a whole is about the size of a town called Hoover Alabama, maybe smaller population wise and it seemed pop knew every single person in it.
It certainly is a special time that I miss, and your story just brought back a flood of memories that have been sitting there waiting for the right time to remind me how fortunate I am to be able to reflect on those.
I lost pop at the age of 15, in a wreck driving back from his produce route in South Alabama.
Anyway man, not to bring the story down, but thank you so much for the memories brother.