A Christmas Story

The countdown begins. Gifts to buy, holiday events to attend, decorations. Yes, nothing says Christmas in the USA like people getting stressed out! I’m adding my voice to those who say we need to keep the focus on what this time of year really means. I have my own Christmas story.

I work downtown and walk for exercise on my breaks. One of my usual routes is the the historic neighborhood called Spanish Town. A sweet elderly lady would sometimes be in front of her adorable little cottage styled house tending her many plants. In true southern style we’d chitchat without even knowing each other’s name. One day she asked if I liked plants. I said, “Yes, ma’am”. She gave me a Christmas cactus and a hug. That was in the summer of 2013. She explained that it bloomed once a year around around Christmas, which is where the name comes from. I placed the plant in the window of my office and in mid November I was shocked at the lovely pink flowers. My new baby bloomed right into early January, which astonished my co-workers, some of whom had Christmas cacti of their own. I saw my new friend only a few times, she didn’t get out much. Later she told me she’d had a bad fall. I didn’t see her for a long time.

In September she passed away. I know because I saw her picture in the local paper and read her obituary. I didn’t remember her name, we’d only exchanged names that one time, but I remembered her sweet smile. Mrs. Clytice Cohoon was born in Arkansas, had been married for 59 years before her husband preceded her in death, and raised 4 kids while her career Army husband spent months away on deployment.

Last month I left for a long vacation to Peru. When I got back to work my cactus looked a lot less healthy. I was afraid it would live, much less bloom and that I’d lost a precious gift. Imagine my delight this week when I saw tiny buds! I think of the warmth of Miss Clytice’s smile and the true meaning of the words Christmas spirit.

So this year my countdown includes waiting for my Christmas cactus to bloom. I’ll have a wonderful tribute to a sweet friend I only knew a few months.

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