Holiday Stories


It's a few days before Christmas and the spirit of the holiday season has not really hit me. It has been like this for a couple years now. Could it be that where I live, there are hardly any of the physical manifestations of Christmas? For instance, a single wreath visibly hangs in one door and a lone picture of Snoopy wearing a Santa Claus hat is displayed on a window amidst a row of town homes along my street. Coming home from work at night, I would look up at my neighbors' windows and noticed only a handful of Christmas lit trees usually obscured behind curtains or blinds. Even the lamp posts around town were bare. I never paid much attention to holiday decor until I noticed its absence.
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Last week on my day off, I had a huge craving for hot chocolate. Out of a whim, I drove a few blocks from where I live to Charles Chocolates so I could sample their product. However, the lady behind the counter told me that they temporarily ceased making the drink. Having heard this further fueled my craving. Scharffenberger was right down the street and so I made my way to their store. I immediately saw a stainless steel percolator on the counter to my left with a small sign that read "hot cocoa." My eyes gleamed. There were no cups to be found so I approached the cashier to ask for one and she quickly began opening and closing drawers behind her. She apologized for not having a stack readily available at the counter. I waited patiently as she shuffled and shifted more things around until she was able to find one. I walked back where the percolator was located and pressed the lever down. A small burst of steam escaped from the opening then out came the velvety concoction. I held the cup to my face and savored its aroma before taking a sip. The sweetness was just right and the pleasant bitter after taste from the cocoa was throughly enjoyable. Although the price was steep, I bought a can for T & I to enjoy during the holidays.
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In the office, L was called the cafeteria Nazi, a reference to the famous Seinfeld episode about a Soup Nazi in New York City. She was relentless when it came to enforcing the rules. If someone forgot their meal card, she refused to serve them lunch. You had to know what you wanted when your turn came to pick your lunch items. Otherwise, she would give out a sigh of impatience and would let you know you are holding up the line.

D had a great story about her from a few years ago. L mistakenly thought he was part of the AV crew that was laid off a few weeks ago. She suspected him of trying to sneak in the cafeteria for a free lunch wearing a uniform as a disguise to gain entry. D had to drag his supervisor to prove to her he was legitimately employed with the company.

When she saw me in the hallway, she would always say, "Kamusta na, anak? Kumain ka na ba?" (How are you child, have you eaten already?) I would politely say I'm fine and often reminded her that I usually ate at a later time. I don't know why she was nice to me. Could it be that I made sure I always followed the rules (for fear of embarassment) and that I smiled a lot as a weapon to diffuse her rants?

This morning, HR blasted an email informing all employees that she died last Friday. She was struck by a car while she was on her way to work. Ironically, she did not use the crosswalk according to the newspaper report. She was taken to the hospital but never made it out of intensive care. The Filipinos I talked to at work were shocked by the news. It was hard to fathom especially because I just saw her last week and we exchanged our usual pleasantries. Before ending my shift, I briefly sat with R in her office and expressed my shock. I was saddened that it had to happen during the holidays. "We've been telling her she should retire already and just enjoy her life but she didn't want to give up her job." R said to me in tagalog. She worked for the company for 19 years. Life sure is short. I zipped up my jacket and walked the cold night more determined than ever to continue making my goals and dreams a reality and to savour every single day of my life. I briefly looked up and expressed a silent gratitude to the universe.