A snow-filled gust of wind swept passed Bill and with chattering teeth, icy cold hands and feet, he thought, without a doubt, this is home. I’m back here near my little piece of the world in the foothills of North Georgia, and the holiday is just around the corner. Bill loved the Christmas holiday and, especially, this one. He and Melody were getting married in a few days, and he’d only a few days to find the reception music. Melody had already sent the DJ a few titles, but the list was missing Bill’s choices.
He thought his problem was easy to fix, but the phone call from his mother weeks earlier had left him feeling exasperated. The plastic storage box of vinyl records retrieved from his grandfather’s old five and dime store was gone. He felt a little cynical.
“When you’re looking for something, it easy to find but the minute you need ‘the something’ bam! You can’t find it for love nor money. Case and point – Grandfather’s records were in his parent’s attic for years, and now that he wanted to use them, they’re lost! Pangs of guilt crept in and out of his thoughts. Grandfather recommended taking the music with him when the 1950’s era store finally closed, but Bill refused to do so. “I don’t have anywhere to store the records, and besides, they’ll be safe here,” he’d told his grandfather.
In spite of feeling rushed and unprepared for the reception, the snowfall and the wintery look of his hometown made him feel at peace. The dazzling snow played its part in this winter wonderland by lending a crystalized view of the happy days ahead.
He loved watching the snow settle on everything it touched; it was childhood remembered. A scene straight out of a New England style Christmas storybook. Picturesque. Everything from the evergreen trees filled with snow dust to an occasional abandoned toy. A few red, green, and white wooden sleighs left behind by trusting owners.
Pulling his turtle neck sweater tightly around his neck, he continued to shiver as the snow fell on his red knit cap and heavy wool gray coat. Looking around the small town, he enjoyed the Christmas lights as they glowed throughout Lux – a north Georgia town near Atlanta. The decorated business buildings, shops, and storefronts shone brightly, and the synchronized twinkling lights glistened as if there was a concerted effort to match his on-again, off-again buoyant mood.
He was back in his hometown, but this was not just his annual return for the Christmas holidays. Nor was it a return home to relax and enjoy freshly roasted turkey, chestnut stuffing, and a bounty of festive trimmings with his parents. In just a few short days, he and Melody would enjoy a spirited toast after exchanging their wedding vows. He was excited about their upcoming nuptials, but jangled nerves were something he didn’t relish. He’d not felt like this since sitting for his bar examination.
They’d began dating during their senior year in high school but went their separate way after graduation. Melody attended a college not far from Lux and was now the high school principal at their alma mater. “A dream come true,” she’d told him. He’d attended the State’s University and then on to law school. They’d kept in touch and not surprisingly soon rekindled their relationship. After a year of dating, she accepted his proposal, and they set about planning their wedding.
As he stood across the street facing the old store, he relaxed for a short time and remembered fun-times on Saturday evenings spent in the store. Bittersweet memories of his last days as a small-town cashier continued to flood his mind. Older teen boys sat on the hood of their cars as girls trickled by and wandered into the store. Giggles could be heard throughout the store as they browsed through the newest goods. “Did you see the new nail polish? It’s a perfect match for the outfit I have on layaway”!
The latest music could be heard drifting throughout the store on most Saturdays. James Brown, Little Eve, Stevie Wonder, and the Queen of Soul, herself, Aretha Franklin. The store offered music in multiple genres: country, gospel, rock, soul, and classical. Something for most music lovers. His favorite musical time in the store was when his grandfather pulled out the old-timey and mostly out of stock Christmas albums. The big bands were a hit in his grandfather’s younger days. Bill enjoyed watching his grandfather sway to the beat of Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway, and Benny Goodman.
His idea of a great reception included a few Nat King Cole Christmas carols and some of the other old music. That mixed with Melody’s choices would be fun and memorable. He’d wondered if maybe the early music would flow with Melody’s selections. It was a chance he was willing to take. Besides, he knew she wouldn’t mind the jump in tempo and style of music even though she preferred contemporary music.
Her selection included a little hip hop, jazz, and a few line dance tunes. “A little some for our multi-generational guest. Everybody on the floor, remember?” She’d told him, and the laughter in her voice reminded him of why he couldn’t wait until they became husband and wife. She was so considerate even while planning their wedding. An all-inclusive kinda person. He’d called her.
Just as he was about to step off of the sidewalk to cross the street to his grandfather’s once-thriving store, Bill noticed a flashing billboard light advertising low price Christmas toys, decorations, and music. That was the kind of competition that had caused his grandfather to close the discount store several years before he was ready to retire.
Not only had the big-box discount store moved into the area, so did a few big-box drugstores. All of them lured customers away from mom and pop operations like his grandfather’s. “Mr. Jones, your prices are too high! I can get the same items much cheaper at the big box store,” some of his shoppers told him. The rest of the shoppers just stopped coming in or they shopped with his grandfather on such an infrequent basis that he eventually closed his shop.
Several of Bill’s classmates took on summer jobs at these big box stores and eventually signed up for full-time employment. To his surprise, they continued to stay in Lux and became part of the underpaid, underclass workers. Bill questioned his assessment of the big box store movement and its effect on his small town. One of his high school teachers, Mr. Bard convinced him to go to college and on to law school and perhaps position himself to help people in the small community. That’s a good idea he thought to himself as Mr. Bard lectured him and a few others about people needing money to survive, and perhaps having a low paying job provided a modicum of security.
Cars began to honk at him as he stood close to the edge of the sidewalk. He now wondered if his wish to find the lost music was what he was really after. He smiled to himself. Maybe I’m just a sentimental fool wanting to capture years gone by. Bill reminded himself that he needed to move along and conclude his music quest.
From where he stood, he saw a flickering light in his grandfather’s old store. He knew that Mrs. Myrtle had been in the old building for a while, waiting for him to show up. Before he could take another step, his cell phone rang. He answered. The familiar but angry voice said, “Bill, I’m looking out of the window, and I see you just standing there. Is something wrong?”
“Mrs. Myrtle, if you don’t mind, close the shop and go home, and I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Getting cold feet are you, Bill?
He let out a weak chuckle. “Not in the least. But I do have some things I need to work out before I select my music.”
“Good thing I still live next-door, Bill. Any further away in this weather, I’d have to stay here at the store.”
Sighing, Bill managed to say, “I’m sorry, Miss Myrtle if I caused you any inconvenience. Be careful and not to worry, I’ll get all of this done before the big day.”
She forgot to tell him one last thing but before she could say another word, her phone was silent. He’d hung up.
Bill was in a hurry to get back to his car and began a quick trot, but when he lost traction on the slippery ice and nearly fell, he slowed his pace. Nothing worse than showing up at the wedding with a broken leg or something much worse. He thought.
TO BE CONTINUED.