A Christmas Memory
In December of 2014, I was without a vehicle, (as I am now,) and frequently had to walk to and from work. At that time, I lived in a different apartment complex than I do now, about 5 miles away from work, which turned out to be about a 2 hour walk. In the snow. Uphill. Both ways. Just kidding about the in-the-snow/uphill/both-ways part. Except for when it was snowing. And the places where there were hills. Both ways. I always wore my hiking boots to work, because I never knew if I might have to walk. 80% of the time I could find rides. The other times, I walked. I was exhausted by the time I got home, usually after 11:00pm, but I really always enjoyed the walks.
One particular evening, actually the first eveningI walked home, it was particularly nice. It was cold, in the upper thirties, and I was prepared with extra shirt, gloves, toboggan cap, and winters hiking coat. I initially approached the walk with some fear and loathing. But once I began walking, I began to enjoy it. I donned my earphones and iPod and listened to a self created Christmas playlist with a variety of music offerings. I carried a small flashlight to make drivers aware of my presence.
With a full moon out, and some light cloud cover that played across the moon occasionally, the night was well lit. The smell of smoke from fireplaces perfumed the sweet, winter air. The first hour of the walk was somewhat boring, but once I reached Travis Street, our town’s Main Street, the walk became much more pleasant. I started seeing buildings and businesses that I was familiar with from when I was a child. To entertain myself, with the backdrop of the Christmas music through my earphones, (for some reason the Chicago Greatest Christmas Hits album dominated the shuffle function,) I made up certain scenarios about some of the shops I passed. A tattoo parlor next to a tax office next to a pet grooming business provided an interesting context. One business, I want to say a mortgage office, was formerly a small home with a wrap around front porch. I playfully entertained the thought of camping out on the front porch, speculating if anybody who might have lived there, (despite that it was a business front,) would run me off if discovered. Of course, I trudged on.
Once I get to the Sherman Public Library, I’m at about the halfway point of my trek home. Lots of fond childhood memories in that place. One block further South and I pass by the long vacated Sherman Opera House, which also formerly housed Atherton’s Music Company. This was the business where both of my parents worked for most of my childhood years. Although several different businesses had come and gone since the thirty year plus run of Atherton’s in that locale, it still remains to me the main landmark of downtown Sherman.
Christmas decorations lace the streetlamp posts, and some storefronts are playfully decorated. Once I get to the Main Square, I pass by Kelly Square, one of the main features of downtown Sherman. Although all the shops inside are closed, the last few customers of Fubeli’s, one of the nicer eating establishments in town, are lingering on the sidewalk. A few more blocks I pass by the police and fire stations, and once I cross Cherry Street, I cross over Travis, right between First Christian and First Baptist Churches. I attended First Baptist as a child, so pleasant memories flood back.
One more block, and I cross King street, and I’m on the corner of the 600 block of Travis. At 602 South Travis is one of my childhood homes. A two story house, I lived there during my 4th, 5th, and 6th grade years, right next door to Duane and Bobbie Gohlke, and their kids Josh and Jennie. I had just entered my earliest stomping ground, where I learned how to sin, I mean, cause trouble. I so wanted to explore the nooks and crannies of the neighborhood, especially all of our hiding places in the alleyway. But I thought the better of it, and marched on.
Several houses had Christmas decorations outside, which was a thrill to look at. About two blocks further South is Saint Mary’s and Saint Anne’s Catholic Churches. At Saint Anne’s, I take the side street and cross over to Crockett Street, but not without admiring the beautiful Architecture of these two fine buildings. Once on Crockett Street, I pass by several childhood friend’s homes, such as Steve and Deborah Reutelhuber’s home, and Amy Curran’s home. A lot of older, stately homes reside on both this street and Travis Street. The Christmas decorations are much more plentiful here, as well. One manor had a lighted Christmas tree in its window, and I could see further decorations within. Once again my mind began making up stories about its inhabitants, their Christmas traditions and family gatherings. All of this fantasizing takes place in a few seconds, but it seems to be a lifetime of events blurring by. I also smell Christmas smells, like the spiciness of scented pine cones and the waft of apple or other kinds of pies. Maybe it’s just neuro-association.
About four or five blocks further South comes my favorite decorated home. Decorated to the hilt with reindeer, Santa’s sleigh, trees, elves, inflatable figures, and a candy cane archway, it’s a treat to break up the journey. I stop to take a few pictures and just admire the gaudiness and beauty of it. About four more blocks and the residential district ends. But not before walking by Forest Avenue Baptist Church. I recall a former church acquaintance of mine posting baby dedication photos from a service at this church to Facebook. Another acquaintance attends here. I feel a nostalgia to events I don’t own. I feel a bond that transcends familiarity. I move on.
Three blocks later and I’m at the intersection where Travis and Crockett Streets merge. I cross over to the East side of Travis again, and walk by the cemetery. Again, stories being made up in my mind to keep my mind distracted from my mounting exhaustion. At this point in the journey I’ve reached the most difficult part, because it is about 6-7 blocks of uphill walking on a considerably more narrow road with no shoulders and sometimes a steep decline on both sides.
I pass by a laundromat, and behind it there is a house once again decorated for Christmas. I am in the country now. Beyond the few last buildings are fields and wooded areas that surround Post Oak creek. On the West side of Travis is a paint and auto body shop that belongs to the father of an acquaintance from high school days. The sky is clear, the moon is visible, and Baroque Christmas chamber and Choral music is playing on my iPod. There is a narrow, two lane no-shoulder bridge crossing Post Oak Creek approaching that I have to navigate and time carefully. A look forward, a look backward, a look forward again, and I cross over, increasing my pace. About three more blocks distance to go.
I see a walking figure coming my way. Although I’m certain and confident no one really intends bad will, I do pay attention carefully. All I see is a shadow moving on the other side of the road. No verbal greeting, just two ships passing by in the night. I cross over to the side road that leads to the entrance of Camelot Apartments, take a shortcut across the field like lawn in front of the buildings, climb up a rather steep hill, stumbling but not falling over tree branches littering the slope. I cut between two buildings, cross the street to my apartment, fumble with frozen fingers with my keys for five minutes, open the door, enter, and…..whew!
I give time for my body to defrost, pour a cup of hot tea, undress and put on my pjs. Peeling my khakis off is painful, like tearing off a layer of skin. Once blasting the heater at full blast, after ten minutes, I gain feeling in my hands again, although what I’m feeling is not so pleasant. However, the exhaustion and pain at the moment is overshadowed by the pleasure of the journey and the simple fact that….I am home.