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Eavesdropping on Christmas

December 24, 2016


Eavesdropping on Christmas


By Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Two Indiana highways ran through our small rural hometown of Blanford:  Highway 163 and Highway 71.  On one side of Highway 71 was my Aunt Zita’s Italian restaurant; directly across the highway from my aunt’s restaurant was the grocery store of my grandmother and uncle.  Although my mother worked full-time as the postmaster of the third-class Blanford Post Office, she still helped at Binole’s Restaurant almost every Saturday night and, as needed, for special occasions.


On Christmas Eve of 1957 or 1958, the restaurant was still open; and my mother was busy frying delicious Italian breaded veal.  At that time, my dad was still working rotating shifts as a firefighter; and my sister was at my youngest aunt’s house which was a short walk away.  Evidently, at Aunt Zita’s residence, which was attached to the restaurant, I had already looked through my favorite volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia and my cousins Bill and Donald’s high school yearbooks; so, I was ready for some action and a change of scenery.


Despite being  only seven or eight years of age, I was allowed to cross alone Highway 71 on an already dark  Saturday night to go to my grandmother and uncle’s store.  Leaving the residence of the restaurant, I walked over the white rock of the parking lot, edged near the highway, looked carefully both ways, listened, and then ran across the two-lane road to sprint up the three stairs to the grocery store.


Shortly after I entered the store and greeted my Uncle Pete, the mother of the poorest family in our town walked inside the store. With a freezer at the level of the countertops on the right, behind which were shelves of groceries, Mrs. L. turned to her left to the glass display cases atop which were school supplies and to the shelves that contained other non-food items.  From behind the counter and toward the back of the store, I listened to Mrs. L. as she proudly smiled and requested various items in the store.  I said nothing because I—still a pretend believer in Santa Claus—realized that Mrs. L. was purchasing or putting on her bill the gifts from Santa for her sons.  One of her sons was a year younger than I; her daughters—one my age and one a year older—were living in another home or homes.  Besides the son whom I knew, the family included two older boys and two younger.


While Mrs. L selected coloring books and crayons, writing tablets and pencils, a kite—I thought that all the gifts the boys would receive were being bought on Christmas Eve at my uncle’s grocery store.  I thought of those children and Mr. and Mrs. L. as I never had before.  Although I knew their family and mine would celebrate very different Christmases, I felt a warm kinship with Mrs. L. on that Christmas Eve.  I was mesmerized by this scene.  With the dark wooden floor, dark wooden counters, dark wooden shelves, and drop lights suspended from the 20-foot ceiling—I saw the large store room in sepia tones—like the Rotogravure section whose photographs I looked at each Sunday in The Terre Haute Tribune-Star.


On that December 24, when I left my aunt’s restaurant, I never guessed that instead of just crossing Highway 71, I was walking to the North Pole.  Instead of just seeing Mrs. L. with her rosy cheeks and positive smile, I saw Santa Claus because in this world, there truly are many real and amazing Santas.  God bless them all!


NOTE:  An earlier draft of this memoir appeared in the 2014 fall/winter issue of the online literary publication Magnets and ladders.


Wishing you the magic and wonder of Christmas Eve

and a blessed and Merry Christmas!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


December 24, 2016, Saturday

(Although my Wordwalk blog is posted each Wednesday, this post on Saturday is an extra for my Wordwalk readers on this Christmas Eve of 2016.)



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  1. Carole permalink

    Merry Christmas, Alice and Willow! May your holiday be merry, bright, and safe!
    The Morgans

  2. mfanyo permalink

    This is a heartwarming story, Alice, filled with your vivid descriptions of beloved places and people from our early years. We have so much to celebrate and be thankful for–both then and now.
    Holiday Blessings to you and Willow!

  3. Sue McKendry permalink

    Thank you for this bonus! Haven’t been at the computer a while, so just read it now. Happy New Year to you and Willow!–Sue

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