A Christmas story.
Allow me to take you back in time, 20 some odd years back. To a time when White snake and Def Leopard reign supreme. A time where it was all about excess and me, me, me. If you wandered the streets of Denver Colorado during this time, that would be Christmas time 20 some odd years back, the streets would have been covered in snow, carolers out in full force, decorations to blind a normal persons eyesight, and crowds rushing about buying that must have Cabbage patch kid, too busy to notice the two little boys that walked meekly along, in worn through clothes.
"Santa will be here soon."
"He never visited us before." the smaller of the two boys replied. His older brother could only look down at him, not sure what to say. He knew that Santa had visited them before. But that was a long time ago, when they were very little.
"Maybe Santa will give us a hotel room on Christmas eve." The older brother said, making an attempt to brighten his little brothers mood.
"Maybe." the littlest tried to fight off the grin that was forming at the thought.
School had let out for winter break - or Christmas break as it was called then - the brothers had no where to spend their days, as their parents both worked. Sometimes their mother would sneak them out some hot lunch, of grilled ham and cheese, during these times, but more times then not they were on their own, filling the time by looking into store windows and imagining finding those toys under the Christmas tree.
"Do you think we can get a tree to decorate this year?" The littlest brother tried to brighten. He tried hard to ignore the cold that filtered through his multi layers of clothing.
"Maybe." Was the oldest reply. He too tried to ignore the cold. It was difficult, the wind that rushed out of the mountains and invaded the streets was harder, and more bitter than usual.
There would be no tree for them this year the oldest boy knew, it wouldn't fit into the run down Impala they lived in. The boys parents were hard workers, and had never been bad with their money. Things just seemed to always be against them. The littlest brother had been born with a rare spider web like cancer, and hospital bills had to be paid, many mouths to feed, and the restlessness of the father had to be tended to. For the past 7 years, they boys could never remember living in a house, it was always a car or motel room. It was hard to get ahead of the bills, no matter how many hours the parents worked, or how much the boys could get for discarded cans, or the pennies they picked up in the streets. The boys parents were proud, too proud to take hand outs, or allow a debt to remain. Even at the expense of their children.
"We'll have turkey with stuffing!" the oldest got into the game.
"And hot biscuits and hot cocoa!" the littlest rejoiced.
Could they ever have those things? They wondered, and even if their young minds knew the reality, they imagined it different. The old story about sugar plums dancing in their heads, was true for these two. The boys pretended they were one of the rich folks with a mansion on the mountain, a tree that touched the top of the vaulted ceilings decked out in important and delicate ornaments. They walked into the parking lot, were the truth of their situation came back, to where the car they slept in waited for their return. The boys pretended it was that grand house, the windows full of multi-colored lights waiting their return. They opened the front door, and laughter and warmth spilled over them.
"Shut it you eejits!" a girl's voice ended their game. The boys sister laid under several blankets and a pile of dirty clothes, trying to keep warm against the Colorado winter. The boys complied, and curled up with their sister before falling asleep and dreaming of wealth, garland and food.
"Wake up!" Someone was shaking the three children, a soothing voice that the youngest always imagined was an angel coming for him. Their mother beamed her smile down at them, as their eyes slowly fluttered open. She then beckoned them to follow her. The car had moved, at some point while the three children slept, their parents had returned and now they were parked outside of a motel. A trashy looking place, where only prostitutes and junkies would call home. The vacancy sign buzzed a menacing green, the letters V. C. and NY were the only ones lit. Someone tried to bring a bit of Christmas to the run down place. Christmas lights held together with black tape and staples sparked in the night air. As the small family passed by the oddly numbers doors, men could be heard moaning and woman giggling. No sounds of happy children could be heard. Gun shots and screams replaced the carolers from earlier in the day, as the children were ushered into a single bed room. A small kitchenette of a coffee pot and a humming fridge. A table sat between the two single beds, and a empty spot on the long dresser where a tv once stood. The beds where covered in stained quilts. The stains looked familiar, though some the children could never guess, these stains stood out amongst the faded blue flowers and light green leaves. The walls had similar faded colors as well as various slangs and sayings tattooed on them, Mike had stayed there. The single lamp shone in a dirty brown rather than a pure while light. Cockroaches scattered as the littlest one pulled down the quilt, and mice could be heard gnawing on the walls in between a man's grunts.
And there, where the television once stood, was a present for each, a handful of hard candies, and a mug of hot cocoa for them to share. "Merry Christmas." their father said. His tired and prematurely aged face pained with the smile he shared with his children. It didn't matter to the children what was in the packages, what mattered was that Santa had came through. He had heard them talking on the street and brought them what they needed. Santa was real, the boys knew it and they exchanged knowing glances.
"Tomorrow we move to Kansas," Their father was saying. "And everything will be different." And indeed it was different. They moved into a house, and stayed in one place for many years. Santa had outdone himself. And every year they would find one present for each of them under the small tree, it was a reminder of what had happened that Christmas 20 some odd years ago.
Now the boys are grown, with families, homes and worries of their own. They both tell their children about Santa Clause and what wonderful things he did for them. And at night when their children are sleeping in a bed, and not under a dirty pile of laundry in the back of a car, they thank Santa, their parents and swear that nothing like that will ever befall their own families. And when the same situation presents itself again, when they see another family like what their's had been those 20 some odd years back, they try to help Santa out, if only a bit.