Calvary Church

4216 West 204th St, Matteson, IL – 708-481-8300
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  • A Christmas Story

     

    A Christmas story.  .  .

    For as far back as I can remember, I always treated Old Man Jones, my neighbor, in the worst ways. Each April 1st, I had the “burning paper bag with dog poop in it” tradition, and although Old Man Jones never fell for it, he still had a mess to clean up each year. He always knew that it was me, and always said, without anger in his voice, “Someday, you’ll be sorry.”

    His driveway was next to ours, and in the winter, I always shoveled our snow onto his drive, giving him twice the work, which he always did without complaint.  When I was 12, just before a blizzard, a snow blower appeared in our driveway, left by someone with what must have been an irrationally kind heart. There was just a note saying, “You might need this!” I could then delight in blowing all the snow from my driveway, onto Old man Jones’s car. I would even cut a wider than needed path for my mom’s beater just to put more snow on the dinosaur’s (as my mom called him) driveway. Sometimes I even cleared some of our front yard just to add to the layers already thrown there. He always knew that it was me and always said without anger in his voice, “Someday, you’ll be sorry.”

    I asked my mom about him once and she didn’t say much other than years ago he had a kid die in a war, and that he was out of date and out of his mind.

    I keyed his car more than once. When I discovered the mint 1969 Mustang Mach series car that always stayed under a thick canvas cover, kept for someone, I quickly sought to learn how many pumps of my BB rifle it took to break it’s windows. He knew that it was me and said without anger in his voice, “Someday, you’ll be sorry.”

    Between BBs and slingshot rocks, most of his home’s windows had to be replaced at one time or another, not to mention the battered aluminum siding that still bears the myriad of little dents. He never complained about the shattered bird feeder or the constant supply of dead squirrels, sparrows, cardinals and whatever else winged its way into his yard. I can’t recall how many times he had to take his cat to the vet to remove a pellet from an infected wound, but I do remember that he always knew that it was me, and always said, without anger in his voice, “Someday, you’ll be sorry.”

    At Christmas-time he used to set up lots of lights around his house that looked like virtual BB magnets, which they were. A plastic manger scene was the prime target one year, and stayed on the relic’s front lawn until I shot the baby’s face off. He always knew that it was me and always said without anger in his voice, “Someday, you’ll be sorry.”

    There was this room in his house that I would look into sometimes when the old man was away. It was the kind of room that I would have loved to have, if my mom could ever get a real job. It was just like one of those “Good Housekeeping” kid’s bedroom that everybody is supposed to want. I always figured that Jones was on the loony side, and this “keeping a cool room for a kid he didn’t have” thing was the final proof that I needed of his senility. Maybe he just kept it up in mourning for his dead son.

    My mom never had a lot of money, but every year, on Christmas, a couple hundred dollars worth of cool stuff was left on my doorstep with “Merry Christmas” and my name written on each carefully wrapped gift. (That’s where the BB gun came from, along with a great target setup, which was never needed with the shooting range next door.) My mom, to hung over each Christmas morning to get me up early enough to meet the Gift Bearer, said that the stuff probably came from my grandfather, whom she hadn’t cared to talk to or see since long before I came around. There had been some long remembered fight over his “interference” in her affairs, of which there were many. I had never met him and really didn’t even know or care where he lived, so long as the goodies came.

    This Christmas, I got up early on my own because I thought that I might want to see what my ancestor looked like, not to mention that I was hoping for BB’s from my benefactor, ’cause Old Man Jones had just gotten a new bird feeder with real glass in it, and my Daisy was calling my name before the sun was up. Of course, he would know that it was me and he would tell me that someday, I would be sorry. Whatever.

    I was still rubbing sleep from my eyes, when I heard a shuffling on the porch. As I quietly opened the front door, the rising sun reflected off of an armload of carefully wrapped presents, in silver and gold paper, each with “Merry Christmas” and my name written on it. There were even some for my mom, but she had never mentioned them before. The arms were still holding the gifts, but the face was hidden by a tall package. The obscured gift bearer, aware that I had opened the door, carefully put the gifts down. Old Man Jones stood up slowly, without stiffness, and through moistened eyes and broken voice said, “Merry Christmas.”

    “Someday” certainly had come, and Old Man Jones could have never been more right. Grace, mercy, acceptance and love had been next to me for all of my life, but in pathetic ignorance, I had abused them, turning their very blessings against their Source.

    It was all about choice now. Do I drink deeply of shame and remorse and brokenly embrace him, or do I simply close the door and load my BB gun. There was a new plastic baby Jesus on his lawn calling my name.

    (This is an original story.)

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