Billy & Steve…’Down By The School Yard’

Billy and Steve were in the Christmas spirit!  Billy had graduated high school and had not a real plan as to what to do with his life going forward.  He actually was so involved with church work and his regular 8am – noon job at the furniture store…that there was little time for thought and planning.  Billy had struck out on his own without a job and with little visible means of financial support.  In fact for the ‘Board’ portion of ‘Room and Board’ he was sleeping in the church.

brown and blue house on mountain
Photo by Matt Hardy on

Steve had left home and hearth as well and seeking gainful employment.  He was a good natured person with a constant mischievous smile on his face!  Billy had hailed from El Dorado, Illinois and had invited his buddy to spend the Christmas holiday with him at his mom and step-dad’s home.  They were both excited about not only the prospect of a holiday adventure but also the ‘horn of plenty’ of Christmas food that would be at their disposal throughout the four day stay!

So, they began the fifty mile trek in Steve’s vintage Chrysler.  When I say vintage I mean from the 1940’s!  Steve turned the ancient dial of the car radio…with only static emanating from the speakers…until magically Christmas in the country came through loud and clear.  They were driving down route #14 through Old DuQuoin and Christopher, Illinois when they decided to stop at one of their favorite restaurants, Mr. Snack, that had the most delicious Italian Beef sandwiches that they had ever tasted!

As they drove by the gothic house, outside El Dorado, that had Christmas lights strung in vertical lines from the roof to the ground and accompanied by one candle in each of the twelve windows…it reminded them more of Halloween than Christmas.

When they arrived at the country cottage they found that the Christmas Coffee Cake had been prepared and the three foot Christmas Tree was erected as well as colorfully wrapped presents under, or around, the Tanenbaum!

The roast beef was in fine flavor!  Demetrius was spinning one Christmas yarn after another…with only a break for his favorite holiday beverage…Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer!  While Billy’s step-dad drank his Pabst, out of the bottle only, beer…Steve and Jane and Billy relished some fine Burgundy wine!

Billy had been paying off a lovely nature painting that his boss at the furniture store had allowed him to buy, at the store’s cost and pay for at five dollars per week.  It was simply the most lovely faux painting that Billy had ever laid his eyes upon!  Billy liked the art work so well that he purchased one for his mom and one for himself!

Billy’s mom called Steve her son and Steve referred to her as, Mom.  The coal stove in the Kitchen was running red hot!  It was so warm that Billy felt the hairs in his nostrils curl from the heat!

Johnny Carson was playing on the new color television and sleep was quickly overtaking the Christmas Eve revelers with their stomachs full of coffee cake and wine and Pabst.  Each person said their goodnights and shuffled to their bedrooms while Bing Crosby sang on the radio, White Christmas.

Christmas Eve night was unusually blustery!  The wind whistled and blew as snow and ice pellets hit the windows and roof.  Billy peered though swollen eyes out of the doorless bedrooms that were in his former home…and saw what appeared to be a golden light as he heard the wafting sounds of the Christmas carol, O’ Little Town of Bethlehem.  Billy thought little of the peculiar sights and sounds and speculated that he had too much Burgundy!

Christmas morning Jane called out for Billy and Steve and Demetrius to hurry out of their bedrooms to see what she was seeing!  Dominating the dining room was a seven foot live Christmas Tree with a multitude of brightly wrapped gifts under it!  As each person waddled out of their slumber there was Jane handing them a gift.  Steve opened his and inside there was the promise of a new job at Southern Illinois University!  Billy was amazed that he had the same promissory note in his red wrapped gift!  Demetrius was promised a renewed love for the Bible and a happy and peaceful retirement!  Jane was promised a life well into her 80’s with, always, someone to love and care for her!

Often…we are living our Christmas gift…and do not realize it!


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