A Flash of Magic
Brushing the stray hairs off of his lap as he stood, Robert couldn't help but notice the pronounced silver hair mingling haphazardly among the brown strands that fell to the floor.
“Thanks Cal" he said reaching into his wallet, brandishing a twenty dollar bill. “Merry Christmas, keep the change.”
“Merry Christmas to you to sir, thank you.” The barber answered graciously as he brushed off the chair.
Robert walked out into the chill of the mid December air, pulling his wool jacket tight as he headed back towards the office a few blocks ahead. He noticed the wreaths that hung from the traffic lights, garnished with bright red bows that burst with color against the gray backdrop of the overcast above. The wreath swayed slightly as a gust of cold air swept over the street, inviting a nostalgic memory to flicker as he thought back to the annual Christmas parade he attended with his family as a child.
The parade was tradition, and each year Robert looked forward to the outing. Together, with their neighbors, they would ride downtown in his father’s 1972 Chevrolet Impala that may have gotten 6 miles to the gallon if travelling downhill. Mr. Collins would sit in the front with his father as the kids and their mothers piled into the backseat. Charlie, Robert’s 4 year old brother, sat on his mother’s lap, while he and Wally Collins sat in the middle. Mrs. Collins anchored the other end, her arm ready to protect Wally in the event of an abrupt stop. The cramped ride brought a smile to Robert's face as he imagined the scene taking place in today's plastic imported cars.
From his place in the back, Robert remembered watching his father turn the key and adjust the controls on the dashboard. He would mimic his actions, rubbing his hands together before blowing into a fist for warmth as the car warmed. He pictured his mother, youthful and pretty, singing along with the Christmas carols on the radio as she bounced a giggling Charlie on her knee.
Arriving downtown, Robert would stare out at the couples walking, their gloved hands holding steaming cups as they made their way towards the parade. When the car would stop, he would hop out of the car ready to bolt towards the excitement before hearing his mother's voice.
“Come here Robbie, let’s get you zipped up. I don’t want you catching pneumonia out here..”
With the children sufficiently zipped, buttoned, and tied, they would begin the trek towards Main Street, which had been sectioned off in preparations for the event. With each step, his excitement swelled as he heard the band playing in distance, the ringing bells, and the sound of the horses trotting on the pavement as they pulled a carriage of carolers wearing top hats and scarves.
His father would walk with Wally’s father, discussing adult matters, as he and Wally walked ahead of Charlie, who would whine as he lagged behind until their mothers would direct them back to the sidewalk after running in the street, reminding him to watch after his little brother.
After a stern warning about running off, they would edge their way towards the front as the parade began under the large decorations of garland and bows. A whirring cheer filling the air as the crowd roared its approval, while the children stood wide-eyed and amused at the slow moving convoy making its way down the street.
There was the flatbed truck, decorated by girl scout troop who waived from the winter wonderland scene on the truck as it crept by. The antique convertible, shining from its fresh coat of wax, carrying the beauty queen whose smile beamed from her perch on the back seat. The marching band, their concurrent steps perfectly in stride as the chinstraps held their faces in a look of determined concentration while performing the sounds of the season. And lastly, as the early twilight began to settle over the horizon, Santa made his rounds, his sleigh being pulled by a tractor instead of reindeer, as he belted out a hearty Merry Christmas! while Mrs. Clause waived loyally from her seat at his side.
A piercing car horn jerked Robert from his thoughts. Traffic was halted at the light, and he watched as two drivers engaged in a shouting match that threatened to turn violent. The back and forth went on until the light turned green, where the cars raced towards the next light to resume their battle.
In a fleeting second, the magic was gone. Robert stepped off the curb and onto the crosswalk towards the large office building where he spent almost 10 hours every day, the 30 year memory vanishing with his breath into the brisk December air. He smiled as he walked up the steps, entering the warm building and back to the matters of the workday while remembering--if only for a moment--the simple pleasures of yesterday.
Copyright 2012 Pete Fanning