by Pril Stevenson
My birthday lands right after Christmas. It’s the 13th day of Christmas, actually. The 12 days of Christmas start Christmas Day and end on the 6th of January. If I remember right- if my math is right, and you never can count on my math.
So I usually had to give one up, giftwise. Or I got a weakish Christmas and then a weakish birthday. Some years, we celebrated my half birthday and had a big party on July 7, rather than on my real birthday.
Once on my own, the gifts came in a weird fashion. Here’s the story of one of the best gifts I ever got.
I was in Phoenix, AZ and it was rough. I was living in a trailer that someone had added a room onto with cinderblocks. The trailer itself was one of those aluminum skinned ones, with a dining area and a sleeping area. I shared this little hovel with a half-crazy guy. We had no power. It was a cold winter that year, for Phoenix. I hopped on a bus to my friend’s house and showered there, usually, because the water was freezing cold.
The crazy guy had a little freak out right after Christmas, and my paycheck was already gone, spent on my part of the rent. It was another week before I would be able to buy groceries. There was nothing to eat in the hovel. I jumped on the bus to my friend’s house, and she didn’t have any food, either. We gathered up some cans and turned them in, and I think we had about $3 from them. We split the $3 and I ended up leaving, heading for a Catholic Church that I heard had a food bank. I didn’t know if it was open or not, but it had been about two days since I’d had anything of substance to eat and no chance of getting anything to eat unless this place was open. My half of the $3 was saved for bus fare.
I walked the seven blocks to the church, and found no one there. Well. What to do now, I wondered. I ended up just walking around and eventually I sat down on a curb somewhere and cried. I don’t often cry but I think I was pretty much at the end of my rope. My Christmas that year had been pretty awful, as befitted a truly horrible year, and things didn’t look like they were going to be getting any better.
I pulled my groundscore flannel a little tighter around myself and put my head on my arms and just cried like a baby, and hated myself for crying like that. Out in public, on a curb. What a wuss I was being. Well, damn, I had been mighty strong through that year and I couldn’t do it anymore.
After a while, I heard someone ask if I was all right. I turned around and there was an old guy behind me who really didn’t look like he was much better off than I was. I just remember telling him I was hungry and I couldn’t get any food. He helped me up and said he didn’t have much money, but he was going to make sure I got some food.
We walked about three blocks to a Circle K. There were no real grocery stores in the area, just mini-marts and liquor stores. He told me to get whatever I wanted. I got three hot dogs, a bottle of orange juice and some bananas.
My holiday feast.
I’ll tell ya what, a Corporate Death Dog has never tasted so good, never been so welcome in my gut, as it was that day. And I haven’t had such a fantastic Christmas present or Birthday present since then.
Pril did not have death dogs for dinner this Christmas. But she did make a certain editor cry with this story.