By Sharon Lynch
He really didn’t want to be there. After a full day of trying to find gifts for folks who already had everything, the last place George wanted to be was around more people. However, his cousin had asked if they could try out the new restaurant and so, being the out-of-town guest, he got to have his way.
The place was packed. For a little village, George wondered where all the people came from. The glow of holiday decorations, with plenty of red and silver in evidence, made the atmosphere festive and George couldn’t help but begin to feel better. This wasn’t so bad after all, he thought.
Excitement was in the air. It was the night of the Santa Claus parade, and there was a definite buzz circulating in the dining room. George had forgotten about the parade and wasn’t particularly interested in it anyway. Those days of kids tugging, feet freezing and crowds crowding, were long gone. For him, the holiday season was more about a break in his busy routine and all the Christmas goodies he could get his hands on. Fortunately his cousin had come with a large tin of shortbread and sugar cookies complete with a festive bow. So there were some compensations to this hectic and over-commercialized time of year, he thought.
It wasn’t that George was a Scrooge. He had many wonderful memories of his Christmases past. The lit tree in his childhood living room with presents overflowing across the rug. His own children, sneaking candies before supper and hanging up their stockings with hopeful anticipation.
But as he grew older, he began to look at the season with different eyes. The sales that began a day after Halloween. The horror in other parts of the world while here at home children drew up long lists of toys they simply had to have. And the other children in his own home town for whom Christmas was another reminder of all the things they would not be getting on Dec. 25.
George tried to put the negative thoughts out of his mind. After all, he was sitting with his favourite cousin in warm and pleasant surroundings. Any minute an abundance of food, served up with a smile and a flourish, would arrive at their table.
And it did. As they ate, the two cousins talked about the upcoming season. Who would be visiting whom? Weather predictions for all that driving. And especially stories of long ago holidays with family members now gone but not forgotten.
They looked out the restaurant window and saw the gathering crowds. Are we staying for the parade, his cousin wanted to know. George replied, he hadn’t counted on it, but they may have no choice since streets were closed to traffic in preparation for the big event.
After finishing their meal and paying the bill, the two men emerged outside to a scene of people hurrying to stake out a spot along the parade route. Just as George was figuring out how they might manoeuvre their way back to his house, shouts of, “It’s started” rippled through the crowded sidewalk. The decision was made for them. They were not going anywhere.
As the first marchers appeared, George felt a change come over him. A hint of excitement or at least an upbeat feeling was taking hold. Around him were people of all ages but especially children. The youngest ones were the most evident, eyes shining as they tried to catch a glimpse from a grown up’s shoulder or hanging tightly onto a large gloved hand. But there were also young people who were, just for now, not worried about looking hip as they strained to see what was headed their way.
The air was filled with music, costumed marchers and floats glowing with lights in the crisp air. It seemed the whole village had come out for the parade. As he took in the scene, George was glad he had been forced to stay on the sidewalk and witness the joy.