A quick visit to downtown Beverly Hills to shop for gifts I cannot afford, then off to Pavilions, an immense grocery supermarket in the heart of West Hollywood, maybe five minutes from where I live. As I waited in line at the fresh fish counter, a large man in a wheel chair asked me if he could have two dollars to buy groceries.
“You can’t buy much right now for two dollars,” I said, “and anyway I don’t have any ones so here,” I added and handed him a 20. He thanked me happily and disappeared down the nearest aisle.
I grabbed my super-good fresh Skuna Bay salmon fillet and headed to the cashiers. I greeted everyone anywhere near me with a hearty “Merry Christmas!” No one else does, and where I grew up in Maryland in the 1950s, everyone did. Plus, why shouldn’t a Jew say, “Merry Christmas?” What religion do you think Jesus was? Lutheran?
Usually no one responds at all except with a mumbled “Happy Holidays.” But today, everyone nearby greeted me with “Merry Christmas!” The Christmas spirit had hit the checkout counters at Pavilions! I paid for my salmon and my pal Jeff loaded it into my car, and then I walked down the block to buy ice cream. Hands free, no contact, at Salt & Straw, the best ice cream on earth. While I waited for my treat, I spoke to a young woman who told me she lived in Paris with her mother, an expert on Marie Antoinette. We talked about delusions about the beheaded queen, and then the young woman and her boyfriend recognized me from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and started literally screaming with happiness.
The boyfriend also noted a Yale connection and started to sing “The Whiffenpoof Song.” Many Christmas greetings and then back to the car. As we passed a cookie store, I heard some people singing Christmas songs in a perfect pitch in ecstatic joy. When I walked a few more steps, I saw my pal, the large man from the fish counter, standing with a homeless woman I often saw at that spot and always offered money to — and she never looked up until tonight when she sang and looked happy. With the two adults was a sweet-looking young man, also singing.
The large man grabbed me by my heavily clothed arm and pointed at me: “This is the man who gave me the money that made it all happen. Thank him!” They started to thank me.
I said, “No, don’t thank me. It was my pleasure. It is a great pleasure indeed.” To myself, I thought, “You cannot even imagine the privileges I have had in my life.”
I thanked them and wished them (of course), “Merry Christmas,” and got into my car and drove home.
When I got home, I walked upstairs to my wife and her friend: “You keep saying you don’t feel any Christmas spirit this year. Guess what? It’s here right now.” And I thanked God that despite COVID and politics and riots and a recession that has taken a big bite out of our house, the Christmas spirit is still here. My wife’s eyes filled with tears.
I got into my swim suit and walked down to our pool (It’s 75 degrees here) and swam for half an hour. Overhead, through the immense palm trees and their fronds, I could see a glorious, brilliant crescent moon over our house on Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills, USA, Earth. Merry Christmas!!!