When I was in High School, I got my first “real” job working at a Department Store in my hometown for the Holidays. Now, I had had jobs before, I had been a “professional” babysitter since I was 13 and had numerous families I worked for on a regular basis, my uncles had a flower shop and I would work for them after school, preparing flowers, helping with arrangements, making wreaths and bows. I would also, occasionally work weekends at my family’s farm, in the “shed” selling, depending on the season, peaches, nectarines, apples and fresh apple cider to costumers.
But, this was the first job I had outside of all of that. In fact, it was the same department store, where my Mom worked when she was in High School and I even had the same boss, that she had! I worked in the Children’s and Shoe department and would moonlight in China, Cosmetic’s and Men’s, when someone would be on a break.
I worked with a variety of people, two other High Schoolers like me and in particular two older women. One of them was a very sweet elderly woman who went to my church. Her name was Alice Moss. She always looked just so and had a certain air about her, you wanted to be around Alice to listen to what she had to say. She had the kindest laugh that just made you gravitate toward her direction.
Quite often, she would share stories with me, as we worked alongside each other, of when she was younger. Two of my favourite stories both dealt with Christmas and at two different points in her life.
She began dating her husband in the late 1940’s early 1950’s. They dated for a little while, but both knew they were deeply in love with one another and they had found what they wanted. He proposed after a few months and Alice accepted. During all of this, her Father had become quite ill and eventually passed away. Her mother was sad beyond words and afraid to be “left” by Alice with her upcoming marriage. She pressured Alice to call off the engagement and stay with her and after enough pressuring Alice finally caved, as she wanted to please her mother.
She broke off their engagement, knowing she could never ask him to wait till her Mother would be ready, because she, herself, didn’t know how long that would be. He protested but Alice remained firm, she had to help her Mother and run the household as she asked. A few months went by and any time they would see each other in town, Alice said her heart would skip a beat when she saw him; but nothing had changed, she still had to take care of her Mother.
The holidays came quickly enough that year and with it, Christmas Eve, in all its glory of anticipation and hope. That evening, her brother and his wife picked Alice up to go to church with them. They drove through the snow filled streets, with lights twinkling at them through the frosted window panes of the car as they went along. They drove to a small white church at the foothills of the mountains. A beautiful wreath hung on each of the doors, the red bows on the top of each one gently blowing in the chill of the night air. The glow of candlelight from inside, bathed the walls and open doors and beckoned everyone in. Standing by the door, bundled up in an camel coloured overcoat, hunter green scarf and a fedora hat, stood her former fiance. He took her hand in his and she was breathless, he led her inside the church and her brother and sister-in-law followed.
All through mass she held his hand, not wanting the magic of the moment to disappear, like Cinderella with her pumpkin. At the end of the service everyone filed out of the church wishing each other a “Merry Christmas”, but the four of them remained on the pew. The priest came back inside, shaking the snow off his robes as he walked and stood at the altar, giving them a small nod.
Alice’s brother slowly turned to her and stated that it is important to love and honour your parent’s, but she had found true love and that should not be taken lightly. He and their sister were living their own lives, so should Alice have the right to live her own life. Since their Father had passed away he was now the head of the household and he would not allow their mother to deny Alice the right to happiness, the right to live a life of her own, she was going to be with the man she loved and the man that loved her.
Her husband to be, beamed at her and her sister-in-law pulled out her own wedding veil for Alice to borrow. Stepping to the back of the church she helped her take off the red hat that matched her wool Christmas suit and place the veil in the soft curls of her hair. The lights were turned down, the organist began to quietly play a Christmas hymn and by the glow of candlelight, with her brother and sister-in-law as witnesses, she wed her husband on Christmas Eve, just before the bells chimed midnight.
He was a professor you know, she would say and he took me back to our new home, his former bachelor pad all decorated for Christmas. He carried me over the threshold and we spent our first night as man and wife in that home. That was always how she brought the story to an end. Suddenly the world would come rushing back, for in those minutes it took her to tell me this tale, the world had vanished around me and I could only see this romance of another time and place through Alice’s eyes.