The meaning of Xmas. Originally published Christmas eve 2010.
The invite was for a Dim Sum feast at a vegetarian restaurant up on Main Street. I arrived early as I typically do, but was not awkwardly so and not alone in being so. The others arrived before too long.
We sat a big round table with a lazy Susan occupying much of the space, a common arrangement for family style meals. The meal was good, though can only recall one dish. The company provided interesting banter. At that time I was prone to taking pot shots vegans, of which there was one at the table, Mr. Dr. Rob. It is a diet choice that can lead to some moralizing, which lead me to the engage in mockery. One casserole topped with a simulated cheese produced the high point of my wit for that season.
As written on the Facebook all those months ago.
While admiring the browned cheese on the rice and simulated seafood casserole I commented on the unique quality of cheese to produce such an appearance. The vegan said, just you wait. My retort, There already exists a perfectly adequate means for turning vegetable mater in to cheese. It is called a mammal.
The meal stretched on for a comfortable hour or so before we started to disperse. I lacked after plans, though there had been an invite to a church service where two of our number would be playing horns.
Three of us,decided a drink or two was in order. The three of headed up will looking for a open bar. This is not a story that starts with a Doctor, Geologist and Physicist walking into a bar.
We walked south up hill in the dar and the rain. Searching for a pub, a golden fleece to our damp Argonauts. This being Main Street we did some window shopping commenting on the unusual knickknacks that in antique and other novelty shops. One storefront was full of mannequin parts and the red lights, This was clearly a robot brothel. Near the robot brothel was a shop proudly displaying a combination bathtub and love seat. It would have been comfortable as long as you stayed clear of the tap. Sharing the window with the love tub was a polished copper and brass contraption that at once looked like a bong a plunger. I now doubt that toilet water makes good bong water. We came to the end of the block and the end of the novel shops. Still not bars in sight. Then along came Bob.
|Not Our Bob|
Bob, was found in the road, which was doing its best impression of a small river. He was dead centre of the right lane. It would have been generous to say he was walking. It was a jelly boned stagger. Removing the man from the lane was generally considered an ethical choice.
Our initial plan was catch and release. He had fallen and spilled out across the pavement. We were lucky, the traffic light was red. It would be for best if he was elsewhere when they traffic started flowing again. With a hand under each arm we moved him on to the sidewalk.
Bob developed a list, he had scarily walked 5 meters before his stagger developed a dangerous leftward direction. He was aiming right for the road. Quick action steered him out of harms way, and we thought perhaps he could go on his way. This hypothesis was proven false when he fell into a cedar hedge. It was clear there would be need for some adult supervision on his journey home. So with a heave hoe, I pulled him up by the scruff of his neck and with Doctor on one arm the Physicist on the other we tried to walk him home.
The weather that night was the kind of winter rain that might make you regret moving to Vancouver, snow could have been an improvement. It was dark, it may have been well above zero but the damp would suck the heat out of as sure as anything. Between the monochrome light, the damp and the cut of his cloths, comparisons to It’s a Wonderful Life were inevitable.
It was almost a shame that Bob did not call us a swell bunch of fella’s. It would have been the perfect detail, especially if he pulled of old times radio voice, but Bob did not call us swell. Our kindness was praised no less earnestly.
Instinct must have guided us towards his abode. We did stop more than once to clarify the directions, the answers were disjointed and vague. During this trek he offered us a shot of brandy for our troubles. How he planned to fit more alcohol into his blood was be feat that defied all medical sense.
Bob started to share the story of Bob, the details space. His presumably adult children were expected to visit. I am struggling to recall if this was met with anticipation or dread. Memory fails here, I wrote that he was not looking forward to the visit and also recall that he was expecting a great Christmas. It does not mater in the end, there is no version of the memory that does not translate into my imagining his family visiting out of duty. The holiday driving visits to the estranged old man.
Any other details of Bob’s life have long since been forgotten, non of the specifics matter, just little slices of a little quiet tragedy. Adding Bob’s narrative to the darkness and the perfectly choreographed weather drove home the It’s A Wonderful Life feel. Here we were trying to save someone from a terrible fate on Christmas eve, pulling a struggling fellow from his metaphorical bridge. Unlike the original this remake did not have the budget for one key thing, hope. Its A life, not staring Jimmy Stewart.
Eventually he recognized his house. In a fit of independence Bob tried to make for the entrance way on his own power. This effort lasted all of 3 meters, where his leftward list lead once again into a bush. Once again we hoisted Bob to his feet. After we righted Bob, and collected the sad plastic bags with his christmas cheer he steered us into the yard.
The house could be described as a Vancouver special. It sat on some unassuming side street near 20th and Main. The first sight of it was intimidating. A short stair case half a story or so lead to the front door. I had no notion of how we were going to haul a man with consistency of a drunk octopus up those steps. I need not have worried. Bob made the only right turn of that evening and took us around back. Here there was a door conveniently level with the ground, and unlocked. We were thanked one last time, there was a lot of thanking that evening.
We left Bob in what we assume to be his home. It had a sad worn quality it that suited him. Was that his home? very likely, and if it wasn’t it was better than being out of the rain and in the traffic. And isn’t that the true meaning of Christmas.
A note on this repost.
Originally I had planned to simply clean up the writing from 5 years ago. However I was embraced to read my own words. It was written hastily full of chunky phrasing. Run on sentences galloped through it tearing grammar as they went. So it I rewrote it. In doing so it morphed from a funny story with sad details to a sad story with funny details.