“You got to help me.”
It was my buddy Stan calling.
He had been calling a lot lately and the timing of his calls spoke to the degree of disaster.
A call in the late hours of the evening usually involved a squabble between him and his wife Daphne.
A call in the wee hours of the morning suggested a full-blown fight – but a call after sunrise was the most serious because it meant he had been stewing on it all night.
His voice bespoke panic, “Daphne is planning Christmas dinner at our house.”
That was unusual. Daphne is a tough but kindhearted soul who prefers to spend her holidays serving food at a homeless shelter.
“It’s bad, really bad.”
“She gave me two lists of things to pick up.”
“Yeah, one is labeled Decorations and I couldn’t even tell you what half the stuff on the list is. What’s a freak’n garland?”
“Never mind that. The other says Christmas Dinner and you can’t believe the stuff she wrote down. Garlic butter? Oyster crackers? It’s like a scavenger hunt.”
“No Stan, it’s Christmas.”
“It’s a nightmare. She says growing up like I did, I never experienced a real Christmas, so she wants to create a Hallmark Christmas. One that will build memories. So far, all I remember is us fighting about it.”
“Like I said, it’s Christmas.”
He lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper to emphasize the horror, “She even wants me and Darcy (her sister) to wear funny Christmas sweaters!”
“Oh, the humanity!”
“Help me find a way out of this,” he whined.
I thought about it.
“The best Christmas I ever had,” I told him, “was when my family decided that instead of buying presents for each other, we would adopt a family at a Women’s shelter and outfit them with everything they needed. Some of those families leave home with nothing.”
“Uh-huh, and all I had to do was run into Target to buy sweatshirts and sweatpants for a mother and three kids. It took less than five minutes – because I had the sizes and everything. It was like gift-giving heaven.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because it is the way out of your fix.”
“Holy Moly! It’s perfect. Instead of spending all that cash and time creating a Hallmark Christmas, I could just kick in some money to the shelter where Daphne volunteers, right?”
“It might not be that easy but talk to Daphne and see if she will go for it.”
A few hours later, Darcy called. I could tell from the clink of glasses and the side conversations that she was in a bar. She voiced the same complaint about the Hallmark Christmas.
I told her what I told Stan.
Then Daphne called.
“Let me tell you about this dream I had…” she began.
I didn’t say a thing.
“It was about having Christmas with my family….”
I knew when to keep quiet. The silence on her end of the line lasted a long time and ended with a sigh.
“Worked like a charm, didn’t it?” I asked.
“The shelter had been struggling for funds,” she said.
“Not anymore,” I guessed. “I’ll bet you shaved both Stan and Darcy pretty close to the skin.”
“We could always use more, what should I put you down for?”
“Hey, I did my part.”
“Not even close,” she said.