My family didn’t own a car for much of my childhood. We’d have one for a few months and then suddenly we’d be back to walking or taking the bus. Our neighbors were kind and drove us places, if it was necessary, but walking was the norm for us.
It wasn’t so bad. Everything we needed at that time was nearby: our best friends, schools, Hilda Ray Park, Dad’s janitor job, and the grocery store.
Christmas Eve came and Mom had money (most likely from a friend or the downtown pawn shop) to buy food. She prepared herself and the six of us to brave the evening cold and walk down the hill to Jordano’s. We lived on the Mesa, one of the highest points of the city, on a street that was a circle: Skyline Circle. Jordano’s was the closest grocery store, about a mile away from our house.
It didn’t take long for Mom to finish her shopping. We exited the store and took our usual route past the trash bins (though we didn’t go through them that night), across Red Rose Way, and up Fellowship Road. Mom was our shepherd and she was able to keep her little band safe through the dangers of traffic, sibling squabbles, and grocery cart tip-overs.
The night was cold and the sky showed us the meaning of forever. I was hungry and wondering if Christmas would come tomorrow.
There was a bend in the road as our climb became steeper. A large tree blocked my view of the sky for a few steps, and then something caught my eye.
I stopped and looked at a star that was larger than the others. It wasn’t twinkling. It was flashing. There was a noise, a humming sound, and the star was moving. I turned to look at the one who would know.
“Mom, look at that star.” I pointed.
“That’s not a star. That’s Santa Claus and his sleigh.”
I looked at Mom. I looked at the sky.
I kept my eye on that sleigh until it was out of sight. Mom didn’t seem to be bothered by the fact that Santa and his sleigh were flying in the opposite direction of our house. It soothed my doubts to watch her confident steps up the hill, as I ran to catch up.
Christmas will come. I repeated the hope with each step.
It did, of course.