People ask, do we miss shopkeeping? Mr. Bob's answer is a resounding, NO!" I'll temper my answer with a few good memories starting with one that is the least pleasant. It was Christmastime, in the days that we stayed open every evening for the holiday. In addition to keeping longer hours, we had been invited to do a display in the Descanso Gardens Christmas exhibit. We had used some priceless props and therefore found it necessary to have a staff member on hand to answer questions and keep an eye on things. It was the year that Mr. Bob arranged to have the house painted......every room, inside and out. My memory of that particular Christmas is arriving home at 10 pm every evening, dead tired, and having to clear the next room for the painters who would be arriving at the crack of the next day's dawn. The pace was unreal, especially for physically lazy Jane, and things went into the attic that I never saw again, not even when we made the big move and accompanying purge last year. It's not my most shining memory.
In the store, there was always a Christmas miracle, taking different forms from year to year. I should have journaled them, for I'm sure some have receded to the furthest regions of my memory bank. The year that a young man came in for a present for his brother who was being shipped to Viet Nam. He didn't have enough money for the book that was perfect for the occasion. I quickly put it "on sale" at a price he could afford. It felt good to do what I could to make the gift a reality. Nine months later, the same customer walked into the store, carrying a single rose in a vase.........a thank you for the small gesture I had made the previous September.
The first Once Upon a Time Christmas, back in 1966, we used a 3 foot tall pine tree growing in a pot, trimmed with German ornaments for sale, strung with miniature colored lights and topped with a Mexican cut tin star. As Mr. Bob and I prepared to close the shop on Christmas Eve, we noticed that a little spider was living within the star and a delicate web had been woven from point to point resulting in a surprise of loveliness.
Or the year that jolly conversation was taking place between several customers, unfamiliar to each other, resulting in one man buying another a copy of a book that was too good not to own. I don't remember the title, but the act was intensely heartwarming.
I'll not forget the year that Toi, owner of the best Thai restaurant in the area, did a little shopping at the lull before dinnertime and returned to her restaurant and sent a container of hot and sour soup to us to give strength for the busy evening ahead.
So many more instances of spontaneous kindness occurred during our 37 holiday seasons, each one precious, every act holy. 'Tis the season and whether or not there really was a sacred birth in a stable all those years ago, what a wonderful thing it is each year to experience the generosity of spirit that springs forth. I do believe. And my answer to the question at the beginning of this log is that yes, in many ways I miss shopkeeping at this time of year, but how lovely it is to have the time to enjoy fully the rituals of Christmas, leaving the retail detail to someone younger and more energetic than we are in our latter years. Bob Hope said it clearly when he coined the phrase, "Thanks for the memory".
|Montrose Christmas quartet|