Cecil was celebrating his 85th birthday when I was his wrangler, bodyguard. He grew his own beard; his wife's cooking provided the padding.
We navigated Father Christmas breakfast with bratty privileged kids, reciting their demands; breakfast with sick kids and kids asking for a Christmas tree.
His wet blue eyes would fix on me: What should he say to the boys and girls who knew not to ask for anything?
We passed the lulls in the Santa action, talking about his wife, his grandkids; my college courses, my roommates. The stories are lost on me now; the impression he left, his gentleness, stayed with me.
Other times, we'd gather up a basket of candy canes and walk around downtown, an ostensible effort to strum up business, support the mighty dollar. But Cecil didn't give a fig about such nonsense. No, he had an agenda. I would stand back while he chatted with street kids and gave them treats.
I wish I could snapped their pictures.
Cecil gave me a card on my 21st birthday; I still have it somewhere. He taped 21 pennies into a 21 inside, for good luck.
He grinned when I opened it, so excited for me to see what he had done.
And this many years later, I think about him at Christmas - when I am panicky and grouchy and hating this season. I slow down.
It's good knowing I've got a Santa, watching over me.
Technorati Tags:santa, cheer, gentleness