Note: I haven’t been commenting much on the Seattle Seahawks so far this season. With the year ending injuries to key defensive stars Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, plus the problems with the offensive line and the running game, I have been, more or less, in “wait and see” mode as regards this […]Read the Rest →
The story that follows is true. It’s about a real place that really exists; or at least it did, up until a couple of years ago. Today the lights of the Christmas House may have gone out, and the people who imbued it with life may be gone; but the lesson I learned there one cold December evening a few years back burns as bright for me as those lights ever did. I hope that lesson is as true for you as it is for me….Please read on…and Merry Christmas! George Smith
The Christmas House
Dedicated to Toots Gillman
No doubt about it…I was lost. A few turns back I had taken a wrong one. My company had sent me to Spokane in the state of Washington to assist a client with some product installation. It was a Saturday in mid December and I had spent that whole day at the client’s office. We wrapped up about 5 in the afternoon and after saying goodbye I decided I wanted get out and get some space before returning to the hotel; and so I got in the car and started to drive. It being December in Spokane, it was cold, and there was about 4 inches of snow on the ground. I had a leisurely drive to the eastern outskirts of the city and enjoyed watching the people and shoppers while sitting at a Starbuck’s sipping a cup of hot chocolate. But now late afternoon had given way to evening. It was getting colder and the streets were icing up; so I got in the car and started driving back the way I had come…or so I thought.
Did I tell you my name is George? Well, it is…George Smith. And it is an irony that often the most consequential of occurrences hinge on seemingly minor decisions. At the time I had no way of knowing that my late afternoon drive in Spokane would end up being one of those, but such are the ways of fate. It was about 7:30 when I gave up and acknowledged that I had no idea where I was. I decided I would take the next turn off the main road and find a house to ask someone for directions. I turned right onto a street called “Center Road” and started looking for a likely house. I did not have to look for long. Almost immediately I came upon a house that was so lit up and decorated for Christmas that every other house on the street was drab by comparison. It was a house that just begged to be looked at; and so I pulled up the car and sat there gazing.
The front yard was enclosed by a fence that was lit up with lights its entire length. Within the yard, and fully lit, were ornamental figures including an Eskimo igloo, a moose, a seal, a polar bear and cubs, and an angel. A movement caught my eye and on closer inspection I saw that the polar bear’s head was moving, as were the angel’s wings and the moose’s head. I shook my head in disbelief; the figures were electronically animated! The house had a huge wreath over the entrance and more lights hung from the eaves and trim around the entire house. A sidewalk led around to the back of the house, the walkway rimmed with ornamental, lit up candy canes. An illuminated sign on the corner of the front yard pointed to the rear of the house and announced that in the indicated direction could be found the North Pole.
I got out of the car and entered the front yard. I could hear the chatter of voices from inside the house, and all the cars parked in front indicated that a party was going on. I took the candy cane walkway down the side of the house and to the rear. In the backyard were more lights and big blow up displays of Santa Claus, Snoopy, and a snowman. Each individual bush and tree in the yard had its own array of lights. The reflection of the lights on the fresh snow added to the illumination of the house and I spent the next few minutes in rapt wonder at the beauty of the place and the artistry of whoever had created it.
At length I remembered that I had stopped for directions and made my way back to the front of the house. I didn’t want to intrude on the holiday reveling going on inside, but I thought it would be a simple matter to get directions; and so I knocked on the door. Almost instantly the door opened to reveal a woman who looked for all the world to be Mrs. Santa Claus. She appeared to be about 70 years old and was dressed entirely in red. She had a lace hat on her head, rosy cheeks, a twinkle to her eye, and a big grin was etched across her face.
“Hello!” I said. “My name is George Smith and I just stopped by to…”
I could not get the rest of the words out, as Mrs. Claus interrupted me with a wink and a hug.
“Come on in George,” she said. “My name is Toots…Toots Gillman. We’re about to have a ‘White Elephant’ gift exchange. Won’t you join us?”
I stepped into the house to find over 50 people crammed into the living room and kitchen. Toots introduced me to her daughters Debbie and Tammy. They both had elf hats on their heads and elf slippers on their feet. Her son in law Cliff was serving drinks in the kitchen, and in no time I had a drink in hand and was mingling with the guests, as if I had been an honored family member for many years. I took part in a spirited “White Elephant” gift exchange, ending up with a stuffed, pink flamingo with a splint on its leg. The guests had a great time and laughed and laughed.
Before I knew it the party was ending. I looked at my watch and it was 10 PM. I couldn’t believe it! I had spent the last 2 ½ hours partying with people I had never met and did not know up to the moment I had knocked on the front door. I located Toots in the living room and walked over to her. She still looked like Mrs. Claus.
“I want to thank you for inviting me to your Christmas Party Mrs. Gilman. I really enjoyed myself. I love Christmas and this has got to be the most Christmassy place I have ever seen!”
Toots smiled back at me and then gave me another wink and a hug. “You know, George,” she said, “Christmas isn’t really a time or a place; it’s a state of mind…and you can have it any time you wish.”
And in that moment, as I reflected upon the apparent twists of chance that had brought me to this Christmas House, I knew Toots was right. It was as if someone had led me to this place…to remind me of something that I already knew, but had somehow forgotten. I returned her hug and said goodbye to Debbie, Tammy and Cliff. Then I got in my car and drove off; a few minutes later arriving back at the hotel.
Only then did I realize, as I was unlocking the door to my room …I never did get those directions.
Copyright © 2015
By Mark Arnold
All Rights Reserved