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a christmas story

I must have been 6 or 7, because I thought it was beautiful. Secured to the front grille of the big rig, the Christmas wreath was a lot of silver tinsel woven through with red velvet ribbons. My mother saw the many miles that had lashed that wreath with mud and wind; I only saw the glitter. I wanted to go touch it, but mom said no, it was too dirty.

Obviously unloading at the grocery store adjacent to the diner we were about to head into, mom told me the truck would still be there when we came out. She struggled to get me and my youngster sister out of the biting cold, and then to free us of hats and mitts and winter coats. Sharing a plate of fries and having a Coke was a big deal, and we weren't about to let her change her mind.

As we fought over who had taken too many fries, and my mom allowed her coffee cup to be filled again, the bells over the door sounded once more. He was wearing a big overcoat, but once he removed it, his red suspenders were my first clue. To my young eyes, he was older than my grandpa, who was the oldest person in the world. He smiled at the waitress as he headed for a table, his big work boots leaving drips of snow and slush on the carpet. He removed his knit cap, and pushed his greying hair back. He didn't know I was watching him, though he did look up once when our French fry jousting got a little too loud. He smiled.

Back outside, bundled up once more for the walk home, I dropped my mother's hand and headed for the truck. The wreath was higher up than it looked, and I couldn't reach it. As I stood staring at it, I heard someone approach from behind me. Assuming it as my mother, I put my hands over my head and said simply, "Lift me up."

A booming voice said I better check with my mom. Jumping, I realized my diner trucker was standing with my mom. With a nod from her, he hoisted me up so I could get a better view of the decoration. Mom was right; there were blobs of mud and evidence of long miles. But I had never seen another truck, anywhere so adorned. As he put me down, I whispered, "Are you Santa?"

He winked.