My dad worked as a department manager at a Sears in the city. One of his departments was the Garden Center, which during the winter months was converted to the Christmas Center. The week after Christmas was always a busy week for him dealing with returns, clean-up and converting the area back to the Garden Center. When I was kid,10,11,12, 13 years old, I would go with a few of my brothers to work with my dad during the week of Christmas break. We were off from school, he needed the help and I am sure my mother didn't mind that we were out of her hair the week between Christmas and New Years.
Our jobs included fixing and repackaging returned Christmas lights, clearing and sweeping the warehouses, sorting returned ornaments, and breaking down cardboard boxes. We worked hard. We were never on the official Sears payroll but my dad made sure he always gave us a few bucks for our time. But I think the main reason why some of us went to work with my dad was because of the McDonald's lunch break. We rarely went to fast food places as a kid and the opportunity to eat McDonald's was huge deal.
Lunch time would come, dad would hand the oldest a couple of fives and tell us to walk to the McDonald's for lunch. I remember feeling so cool that I got to walk in the city without any parents and buy my own lunch. We would pig out on burgers, fries and milkshakes making sure that we spent every last nickel knowing there was a possibility dad would ask for the change when we returned. I would freeze on the walk back to Sears, carrying my vanilla shake, making sure I got every last drop of the delicious wax-from-the cup-infused-ice cream flavored drink.
When we returned to Sears our work ethic changed, now that McDonald's was behind us. Our jobs included, getting forklift rides from Sears employees named Spanky and Dirtball, playing hide-and-seek in the warehouse, daring each other to see who could hold their tongue on 9-volt battery the longest, and spinning on my dad's office chair. At the end of the day, my dad would come and get us and we would act exhausted from the hard day at work. We would spend the car ride home talking with my dad about the days events and for a brief time we were one of his work buddies.
We would only work a few days that week between Christmas and New Years but the work was like a little vacation from our normal lives. That week between the two holidays has always been the source of some fond memories for me. The work, the fun with my brothers, the time spent with dad, and, of course, the McDonald's.
The week between was always a good time for me.
Four years ago my dad passed away. He spent the the week between Christmas and New Years in and out of the hospital. After one visit to the hospital on that Christmas morning of 2007 he asked me if I could run to McDonald's for him. He was having trouble eating and he said the one thing he knew he could eat was McDonald's burgers and fries. I drove to the the two closest locations and called two others but all of them were closed for Christmas. Later that week my dad was admitted to the hospital and finally passed on January 2nd 2008 without ever having his McDonald's. It's funny how McDonald's, which was such a good part of the week between now became a source of sadness.
That particular week between Christmas and New Years was a rough one. Since then, each year, the week between has lost a bit of its special qualities. They were just not the same for me. I would find myself feeling down, getting into a funk.
This year, though, I feel like the cloud of melancholy has passed. I don't know why. Maybe it is time. Maybe my attention has been directed elsewhere. Or maybe, maybe, it is all the McDonald's burgers and shakes I have been eating.
Happy New Years to you.