‘Twas the last Christmas Card

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 24, 2005

In December something truly magical hovered over Ahoskie’s Main Street in the 1950’s. People from all the nearby counties loaded up their cars with family members and came to do some serious Christmas shopping.

Many great stores lined the street. Local buyers had gone to NYC and had personally chosen beautiful clothes, shoes, and household goods that today would rival those in any specialty shop. Actually we, the teenagers of that day, took everything about the magic of the season for grated I’m sure.

My personal favorite of the clothing stores was Ahoskie Department Store (located where Ben’s Discount Store is today). Across the street was Copeland’s Drugs where all the gang met after school over Pepsi and nabs or ice cream cones. Sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it? It was.

I was a high school junior working in my second job, wrapping Christmas gifts on the men’s side of Ahoskie Department Store, owned by the Lipsitz family, a wonderful highly respected, hard-working family.

Really, I loved my job! What’s not to like? Wrapping each box, making pretty bows, smiling at and talking with customers – everything was fun for me. Hat boxes were challenging, but everything was fun.

One of the perks of my job was meeting the other employees. My favorite was a cute new guy (four years older than I), who went to ECC but came home on the week-ends to work in the shoe department or the men’s store. This guy was always joking around, teasing, and laughing. His name was Tommy.

Whenever he brought up a pair of shoes or a shirt for me to wrap, he’d make a joke or belittle whatever I was wrapping. Truly, I thought he was fine, but he was four years older than I, so I knew he’d pay no attention to me. Yes, I’d seen him score a few touchdowns for the Ahoskie Indians, but I was a seventh or eighth grader in Bob Brown’s band, so Tommy surely didn’t know me.

After talking and laughing with him at the store on Saturday night in early December, I walked home to North Street with a box of Christmas cards from Roses (across the street near Copeland’s Drugs), and told my mom about this cute guy I’d met.

Sitting at the end of the kitchen table, I addressed cards as my mama cooked. When I finished, I had one card left over. Out loud I said, &uot;I don’t know who to send this last card to.&uot; My mama said, &uot;What about the cute boy at the store?&uot; So I looked up his Church Street address and penned the last card.

This guy worked more hours after the ECC semester ended for Christmas. Actually, I can’t remember whether he ever mentioned the card or not, but on Christmas Eve night, the store was to close at 7:00.

Our pay envelopes, full of bills and change, had already been stuffed. Knowing all of that, he planned (and schemed) to ruin my night. At 6:55 he brought me 25 boxed handkerchiefs to be wrapped separately for a men’s Sunday school class. One of the employees was to take them with him when he left for the night.

Promptly at 7 p.m., Tommy told me to have a great Christmas, laughing as he headed out the men’s door into the cold night, humming as he left. It took me until 7:15 (with no extra pay) to wrap the individual gifts, which I know he had hidden until the absolute last minute!

You know what I’m going to say. Whenever I see a box of Christmas cards, I wonder what would have happened if I had NOT mailed Tommy the last Christmas card. I’m glad that I took my mom’s advice. By the way, during the 1960’s before our children, we always saved one gift to be bought late on Christmas Eve on Main Street so that we could join the hustle and bustle and magic that we have always enjoyed together.

Christmas is still here. Merry Christmas! May the Christ child fill your new year with peace and joy.