VI. Former Nun leads us in Song
Nancy McManmon God rest her soul was a friend who quit her holy order as a Nun and married a former young man who was studying with his holy order but left too and together they moved from Massachusetts to Las Vegas where they served as foster parents for countless children in crisis or between homes until the state paperwork became so burdensome they stopped accepting children.
Nancy led the gathered in the singing of the Marine Corps Hymn and several Christmas Carols after we presented the Marines, who were standing near the tree for a photo op, with their gifts and then a standing ovation for their service to our country.
The party was a huge success in head count, toy count and hopefully providing all in attendance a great evening and some cheer with this evening possibly the only Christmas they would experience this year. As our guests congregated around the doorway prior to departing into the chilly night air lingering now on the driveway to engage in one more conversation with a long lost friend while slow walking to their cars double and triple parked in the street left there by the valet prior to turning over the keys to us and departing for the night we could hear a distinct clatter not from the roof but from the help in the kitchen.
Our Staff was well on the way to emptying the last dishwasher load of silverware, plates and flutes. The chafing dishes had been hand washed and placed back inside of their carriers. The whir of a vacuum was growing closer from the second floor and now onto the stairs and soon the landing below. The trash was placed in large receptacles in the garage so as not to violate our association bylaws of wheeling the garbage outside prior to collection and finally cash payments were made to each of the ten or eleven kitchen staff who signed cash receipts and now had rent money to extend their stay in a clean and sober living environment by one or two weeks.
Plates of food, deserts, chocolates and other candies were placed in restaurant style to go sealable containers for those who wanted extras for later.
Some of the helium balloons lost their gas and fell from the twenty foot ceiling to the ground where they were gathered by young and old alike for the ride home.
We thanked Santa and his wife and true to form never spoke to them again. We weren’t in the explaining mood and they had completed their call to duty with wonderful photographic results and that was the end of our friendship which was really just a word to describe the convenience of our shared faith and something that wasn’t really there in the first place especially if a local reporter could come between people who celebrated the mystery of the body of Christ in a Catholic Mass week in and week out.
VII. Leaving Las Vegas
2006 was another eventful year and our Toys for Tots Party was our largest Christmas event yet. During the spring and summer of 2007 we stopped believing in the local Las Vegas economy. On occasion I would reflect on the pessimism of Murphy’s Law which reads: “if something can go wrong it will” and an out of context version of the quote attributed to Sarah Dessen: “if you expect the worst you will never be disappointed.”
We decided to sell our home after a swat incident four doors down on the Friday night of Labor day that 2007. We went under market to the chagrin and chastisement of our neighbors who had watched as the equity of almost every home in our neighborhood doubled and then almost tripled in value. We sold our home in one day to the first buyer and moved to the outskirts of town where we proceeded with our Toys for Tots Party again for Christmas It was a rousing success with the group of Marines arriving with an empty 24ft truck rental truck and departing that evening with another massive haul.
Santa appeared seated next to a stone fireplace. His feet rested on Italian Marble flooring. The optics of our new rental Executive Home was supremely wonderful. The guests included our real estate guardian angel Chantel Tilley. We wondered how anyone could afford not to live in this property and instead rent it out for peanuts. We loaded the home with roommates driving our monthly outlays to half of the total rent. We loved the spaciousness, the waterfall, pool and undisturbed desert beyond and even hired a lifeguard in the dead of winter to insure no one fell in the water. She was smart and pulled up a chair blocking the back door from inside and near the warmth of the fireplace insuring no one would tour the area without her guiding them around the backyard. 2008 was our final year to sponsor any Toys for Tots event. Santa for this event was our friend and Air Cavalry Army Veteran Sam.
The haul was the best ever and we were informed by our Marine Friend who had joined us for the last four or five years that he was being promoted and would be leaving Las Vegas for Washington D.C. We had also received a call from the White House that year stating that then President Bush would not be able to attend our event but wished us well; If seemed fitting that our largest event ever would be our last yet this fact remained hidden and unbeknownst to us until the following spring.
Around Easter in 2009 it became apparent through a bankruptcy filing and notification that our landlord was going to lose the home which we surmised would probably be sold at auction. We didn’t want to wait until we received any type of notification to commence the Herculean effort to box, crate and move out in a few days so we parked our cars outside and filled the garage with rows and rows of boxes first from the library, then the kitchen, then the wardrobe and then we rented a truck and moved the first load into storage.
The Santa Suit was packed and placed in the very back of the locker along with the rest of our Christmas collection of lights, wind socks, ornaments and gifts purchased in mass from hallmark after their final February gigantic markdown of all things Christmas.
Christina Dawn-Keep the Dream Alive-1994.5
The Santa Suit page 3
A Christmas Story