After Christmas, people packed into Ms. Anne Thrope’s Coffee Club. They played chess and backgammon, talked about families and politics, and kept the staff busy. The previous week, people had been agitated due to shopping for last-minute Christmas gifts. We have the same pattern every year. Ms. Anne Thrope gets sad because the business is off, but she enjoys the conversations the week after Christmas. This year was different. Ms. Anne seemed curt with customers and jumped on staff for small things she usually overlooked. Strawberry Mgrdichian, the other full-time employee, and I tried to protect Ms. Anne and the customers from one another.
“Ms. Anne, let’s take a break,” I said, nudging her toward the back room.
She shook her head and said, “Some days it isn’t worth coming to the shop.”
“We’re doing good business. Lots of customers. People want to talk, drink coffee, eat paklava, drink more coffee. It’s a good time. Here, let me make you some Armenian coffee.”
“Thanks, I could use a cup, but I don’t want my grounds read. It’s too much for me.”
“The customers are too much? It’s the season of good cheer. Enjoy it—they’ll be back to complaining soon. You do seem sad this year.”
“Always I remember William Saroyan. He was an old man when I knew him. He used to laugh—big laugh—and say silly things like ‘Everybody has got to die, but I always thought I would be an exception to that rule’ and he’d laugh so loud you had to laugh with him. Things like that. Now let me say that I’m healthy. But Christmas reminds me of Saroyan and other people who have died. I’m getting old. I remember family members who aren’t around. is year seems harder than usual. I didn’t really enjoy Christmas.”
“I imagine that you have good memories of Mr. Saroyan and many other people, Ms. Anne. That’s a gift.”
“Maybe, but it’s a hard gift. I saw an article online about post-Christmas sadness. That’s probably what I have.
“I didn’t do everything I wanted to do. I didn’t do much at all. My kids came, but they seemed preoccupied before they arrived and my grandson got sick the night before Christmas Eve. Pretty sad, he was,” she continued. “And nobody put a brand new car under my tree. Not that I wanted one, but it’s such a fantasy. So much fake stuff we expect to please us.”
“Sometimes we miss truth in front of us because we’re looking too hard at the past. But maybe that’s why we celebrate Christmas. To remember that God provides many gifts to each of us over a lifetime. To remember the birth of Jesus and what that means—because it is a gift of love.” I was not sure if these words were right for the moment.
“I know that. I’m tired and Christmas happened too quickly for me. Bang! It was here! Bang! It was gone! And somehow I feel like I missed it.”
“Be gentle with yourself, Ms. Anne. Christmas is hard on everyone because of all the expectations people have. You know—the perfect tree, the perfect decorations, perfect meal, the perfect setting, the perfect gift. We get slammed by this illusion of perfection because none of us can pull it off, and it’s a long way from the birth of Jesus. You remember what Saroyan wrote in The Time of Your Life? I can’t quote it exactly, but he said to seek goodness and when you find it, bring it out of its hiding place. Sounds a little like Jesus and what he said about the kingdom of God and the mustard seed.”
“Sometimes you sound like a preacher. Not a very good one but OK. You make me laugh. You think I should be gentle with myself? Sure, why not?”
From pp. 83-87 of IN DAYS TO COME: From Advent to Epiphany. Copyright © 2017 by George H. Donigian. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books.