Tis the Season For Bagels and Cheer
by Tanya LaReveur
“I like my bagels as they are. No schmear, no toaster oven, no nothing. That way I can pluck them apart and savor every fluffy piece” I explained as I tore an especially cheesy bit off of an asiago bagel. “And I like to save my bagels for special occasions, you know? That way they are always a treat.”
The man sitting across from me nodded.
“Here, would you like another?” I asked, pushing a greasy paper bag toward him.
He took off a worn glove and dug into the bag. “Ah, poppy seed” he grinned, pulling one bagel out.
As he ate, I slowly surveyed the little storefront in which we sat. A modest strand of Christmas lights hung over the front window, adding a tiny glimmer to the otherwise dull room. Pop music in the background was the closest thing to company that my friend and I had. The two of us were the only people in the place, except for the woman wearing a hijab,standing behind the counter.
Sanja’s cafe was the only place in the neighborhood that stayed open on Christmas day.
“Remind me of your name” I said to my friend as he ate.
“Roland,” he responded.
“Roland, are you doing anything else for the holiday?”
“No, just trying to stay warm” he chuckled. “And counting my lucky stars for another year here. Mmmh, God has been good!”
“He has, Roland. He sure has.”
I’d met Roland before, I think sometime in early autumn when I first saw him sitting by the entrance to the movie theater. He had had a cardboard sign propped up against the wall, and a roughed-up trumpet sitting in his lap.
Now that the two of us were sitting across from one another, however, there was not much of a need for conversation. Roland knew my name, I now knew his. He knew my busy lifestyle from seeing me march in pumps to and from work each day, and I knew his quiet but soulful spirit from the sweet tunes he blew out of his horn. He knew I needed a slow, relaxed morning, and I new he delighted in a short and sweet detour from his tired routine.
Having that shared knowledge, along with bagels and just barely-burnt coffee, Roland and I could sit with contentment.
It was not that we couldn’t ask for more. We simply did not want to ask for more, not just now in this moment. Sure I would have liked to keep my mom with me for one more Christmas, and Roland had been praying every day for a job and a low-rent apartment in which to rest his feet. But just now– while two blocks away families sat in living rooms that had been transformed into whirlwinds of ribbon and wrapping paper, decor and rich foods– just now the two of us felt pretty darn blessed.
I was very aware that the “magical feeling” that accompanied every Christmas I knew as a child was now foreign to me.
So, too, was I aware that the “magical feeling” had been replaced with a delight I had come to find in taking the 25th of December to celebrate a multitude of blessings that I mistakenly take for granted every other day of the year.
“Mmmmph, this bagel is the best thing I’ve eaten all year” Roland said, mirroring my gratitude on the soggy morning.
After a few more minutes, Roland wished me a Merry Christmas and left Sanja’s to head on over to the local city mission.
When he left, I remained sitting for a while in my little booth. I gazed out from the light-adorned window and watched cars slowly pass by as they splashed through the melting snow.
Every now and then I would shift my gaze and meet eyes with the woman behind the counter, both of us smiling, sharing the strange peace of the moment.
It is a Merry Christmas indeed.
WordPress friends, I hope this short story finds you warm and cozy and filled with joy no matter what your circumstances. I have had many things to overcome in 2015, and I am sure I will have many more in 2016. But I cannot help but, at least for a short moment every day, shove distress aside, and acknowledge how truly I blessed I always will be.
Merry Christmas to all of you,