It was 1990 and I was living in Jamestown, New York. I had just returned to Jamestown in September, having lived in greater Boston with a really cool tech-job for what was at the time the second largest computer company in the world. I had made some unfortunate choices thinking I would find something better with the move. There was also a strong element of me trying to hold on to some good feelings from my past with that move to Jamestown and while I don’t regret any choices I have made, I certainly wouldn’t dub that era a “shining moment” of my life.
I was working in the layaway department of the long-gone Hills Department Store. The folks found that I was really good at that sort of thing and were planning on adding me to the sound and video department of the store after the holidays. I was often called up front to run a register and always ended up on register 16, the express lane. It was on the end of the network loop so it ran the slowest. My speed and efficiency as a cashier apparently helped in this situation. I wore an off-purple vest.
It was Christmas Eve. I had no one special in my life. My parents lived 275 miles away. I was scheduled to work until the store closed at 1800. I wore a Santa hat for the occasion. Along with the little beard, the get up either made me look like a young Kris Kringle or a big elf. It was snowing like hell and the express lane was populated with men buying last minute gifts for their loved ones. Their faces indicated stress. I wanted to see my family.
The plan was to leave right after work and make the trek to my folks in time for church. We closed the store and I jumped on Route 60 with hopes of hitting the Thruway. Everyone was driving slowly and and foolishly and then a deer decided he was angry because he didn’t have “rein” before that which describes his species so he ran across Route 60 to get that beat Hyundai. I slammed on the brakes and slid to the right, barely missing a sign declaring I was at a Parking Area. I spun my tires and backed up and into the Parking Area and composed my thoughts.
I look skyward and speaking to whomever I thought was god at the time, I said “I just want to go home for Christmas. Once I do that, it’ll all be better.”
With that I continued my trek up to the Thruway and headed home in crazy snow for most of the trip. What should have taken four and a half hours extended to nearly six; I made to my folks just in time to go to the Methodist church in town for the candlelight Christmas Eve service. I remember thinking a loud “thank you” in my head for making it home safely.
That is when I truly felt the Christmas spirit and that carols and the lights and the candles and being with my family made me feel like it was all good. I can’t tell you what I got that year for a gift, save for a videotape of Madonna’s “Justify My Love” because I always remember dirty things, but shortly after that holiday I left Hills when I was hired full-time as a house manager for the local ARC. With that I found my path again and was able to make the move to where we live today.
It was in 1990 that I found my path and found myself back where I belonged. And it was the Christmas spirit that put me there.