Christmas In Roebuck Junction(part IV)

The next day was December 23 and I finished decorating the house and got it clean before Roberta got home from work. Christmas Eve Roberta was off from work. My parents were coming up Christmas day to bring Roberta her gifts and take me to Charlotte to celebrate Christmas at Grannie’s. Christmas Eve we went over to the Christmas pageant at first Baptist. Everything went fine except Cletus Smith, the ten year old playing Joseph had eaten too many Christmas cookies and tossed them just as the three kings were singing “Myrrh is mine: its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom” seemed pretty appropriate to me because at that point the air really did smell like bitter perfume but Roberta got upset with me when I began to laugh. We finished by going to the reception following and ate some gingerbread men that looked like they had been made by Dr. Frankenstein, Roberta told me that they were made by the McGillicuddy twins who did the best job they could and drank some red punch with green ice in it that was really pretty good. As we walked home it started to get pretty cold and the wind was blowing. When we walked up to the house there was Mr. R. J. Bledsoe standing on the front stoop. Roberta was a little worried wondering if something was wrong, maybe she was in trouble at the plant. We walked up to the door and Roberta said: “Mr Bledsoe, what brings you out to my house on Christmas Eve?”  “Hello Roberta,” he said “Merry Christmas. I just needed to talk to you about something. May I come in”. Well you don’t tell your boss that he can’t come in the house so Roberta said certainly, unlocked the door and led us all in. Roberta presented me to Mr. Bledsoe and said this is my friend Pearl’s grandson. “He has come up to help me get ready for the holidays.”. I shook Mr. Bledsoe’s hand and I made sure that I gave him a firm grip and not a cold fish as my daddy used to tell me.  I turned to go back to my bedroom so Mr. Bledsoe could talk to Roberta but he asked me to stay saying that what he had to say concerned me as well. He said : “Lee, I’ve heard about how you have helped out Roberta this week. It is a wonderful thing for you to give up your time to come up here”. I told him it was really nothing and that Roberta’s fried chicken was worth it, he looked at me with a shy grin and said: “And Tootsie’s burgers?” and I said yea, that too, wondering how he knew about that.. He then asked me if I had gone up to the plant a few days ago to pick up Roberta’s gift. I looked over at Roberta and she smiled at me. I looked back at Mr. Bledsoe and said Yes sir. He then asked be about getting the wrong bag and then taking it over to Mrs. Bishops and I said yes. He asked me if I had opened the bag before taking it over to Effie’s house. Roberta interrupted and told the whole story saying that I had not opened the bag but that we had opened it together not noticing it was the wrong bag. She said that as soon as she saw the snuff she knew that it was the wrong bag and we packed everything up and sent it over to Effie. He asked if we had seen anything else in the bag and Roberta turned real red and said yes we found the envelop with all the money but we had put it all back and sent it over to Effie’s. He said he knew because Effie had called to thank him and to tell him that she was going to use the money to buy a plane ticket to California because she had always wanted to watch the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, California. She told him that she had really forgotten about the Christmas bags and would not have even gotten it if I had not brought it by. He looked at Roberta and said that it was a wonderful thing we had done, even if Effie did not really need the money and was going to use it for something silly like going to Pasadena. He said that Roberta was really a very fine woman and that he greatly respected her for her hard work and all she had gone through since Earl had left. He reached inside his top coat and pulled out an envelope. He said: “I’m sorry it could not be another $2,000 but he hoped that this would add a little something to our Christmas. He said he had to go, again told Roberta how much he really respected her and what a fine woman she really was. As he turned to walk out the door, he turned to me, pulled out his wallet and gave me a $50 bill. I had never held so much money in my life. He said Merry Christmas, Lee and walked out the door and closed it behind him. I turned to Roberta to tell her to open it but I was too late. She was standing there with tears running down her cheeks. “It’s a thousand dollars Lee! A thousand dollars”. We both rushed to the door to run and thank Mr. Bledsoe but he was gone, no where in sight. But the carolers from the Antioch First Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ from down the street were on the front lawn singing “Joy to the World” and it was even colder and the wind was blowing and it was snowing to beat the band. Christmas Eve, 1963 in Roebuck Junction, North Carolina and I was joyfully standing there with my Aunt Roberta, listening to the real reasons for joy that time of year, or any time of year.

One thought on “Christmas In Roebuck Junction(part IV)

  1. Why does this story make me cry when I’ve heard it several times before? I love this imaginary place inhabited by people that seem so very, very familiar. Well done!

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