I stood in line with holiday packages at the Hampton Bays post office on Dec. 12, dreading another Christmas season like an old man contemplating the onslaught of another cold winter. The “same old, same old” blues beset me. My wife, Claire, stood nearby stamping and addressing parcels. The room was filled with folks trying to complete holiday chores. Overwhelmed, many seemed oblivious to their immediate surroundings.
And then, wham! Serendipity walked in. A cheerful woman accompanied by two grandchildren asked whether I was in line. I smiled and said they should go ahead while my wife prepared the rest of our mailings. Claire, working diligently and smiling all the way, truly enjoys sending holiday greetings — no “Bah, humbug!” there at all. I’m simply along to offer an extra set of arms.
The grandmother thanked me and waited her turn. The amiable adults in attendance seemed keenly focused on their mailings. That is, until the moment the kindly clerk, Brunie Labozzetta, called for the next person in line.
The grandmother ushered her grandson, who was about 5 years old, and granddaughter, perhaps 7, to the counter. The excited boy stood on tippy toes and offered a letter. He hesitantly proclaimed that he and his sister had written a letter to Santa. Would the clerk be able to get it to him?
Suddenly the minute hand on the clock seemed to freeze. The room became silent. Everyone turned to the children and the clerk. I wondered, is this the silence just before the judge issues his opinion in “Miracle on 34th Street”?
Well, the clerk smiled and explained that indeed she would get the letter to Santa in time for Christmas.
Phew! I was relieved. Brunie enthusiastically reached over the counter for the letter — the magic letter that nurtures the hopes, innocence and dreams of youth.
The granddaughter then asked whether Brunie had ever seen Santa.
Once again the room grew silent.
“Ah, yes, for a short while,” Brunie said.
The grandmother followed with, “Were you afraid?”
“Oh, no,” Brunie replied, “not at all, and Santa was very kind. He listened to all my requests. You’re really going to like him.”
The kids beamed!
In the time and space of an old man’s blink, I felt tears in my eyes and a rush of memories of innocent youth. Visions of sugar plums danced joyously to the strains of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.”
As the reassured children left, I thought a sigh of relief could be heard throughout the post office.
As for my “same old, same old” seasonal blues: Well, after having witnessed this inspiring moment, I was inclined to embrace renowned band leader Count Basie’s habit of calling for “One more time!” — which he shouted to hear again a passionate refrain.
The spirit of Christmas in all its glorious forms sometimes gets misplaced in the everyday shuffle of life. An old friend once remarked that Christmas spirit is not found in the gift, but dwells in the many forms of its giving.
So yes, let’s welcome the giving season one more time! Sing, Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Reader Mike Piliero lives in Hampton Bays.