A CHRISTMAS STORY
Written December 24th, 2007
For the last ten years, I have worked Christmas Eve for any young sergeant who should be home with his wife and babies. They don’t know until December 23rd, and then I tell the chosen one, “I got it.” Tonight, is the last one for me. I will be 6L20 watch 3. Start of watch is 1815 until 0700 Christmas Day. I got a true story to tell you about Christmas Eve 1992. Its’ a really good one.
I was set to work with another sergeant and a lieutenant at Rampart Division. The other sergeant was Brenda Gordon who had an umpteenth number of family in from out of town and pleaded and begged as she might, she did not get the night off. The LT., Mike Mines and I are car pooling so enroute to the station I convince him that I can handle the street supervision myself and Brenda should stay home. He agrees and when we get to the station, we call Brenda. She cries like a baby. When her family asked why she was crying, she told them. Her family went nuts; made Mike and me feel good.
About 2030 (8:30 PM), Mike calls me into the station and tells me that there are several gifts still under the Christmas tree in the station lobby and I should find some kids to give them to. I get the gifts out and see that there are 4, two marked “girl” and two marked “boy.” Now before I get to do my Santa thing, I want to smoke a Christmas cigar I’d been saving.
Here is where it gets good, but at the time I did not know it was good. There are several hills in Rampart that allow some cool views of downtown L.A., so I go looking for one to enjoy the view and have that smoke. I found myself going up a side street off Temple Street that I’d never been on before and could see that I was going to have a really neat view of downtown. The street is steep, so I know I will get a great view. About three quarters of the way up I see this small-framed woman pushing a shopping cart up the hill. Well heck, I am there to “Protect and Serve,” so I stop the cruiser and get out to help. The look on her face told me I was the last thing she expected.
We get to the top of the hill and for the first time I see two little girls, maybe 4 and 5 years old tagging along behind her. Their little noses are running and their hair is in disarray and they are wearing shawls instead of sweaters. It was a cold night.
Boom, the light comes on and I say, “Wait here.” This is all spoken in Spanish from here on and lucky for me I know just enough to embarrass myself. I get the two “girl” packages from my car and start walking toward the three waiting up the hill. As I get to the girls I say, “Merry Christmas” and hand the gifts to them. They are holding on to each other and look at mom. Mom has her hands over her mouth and she is trembling. She nods and gestures to them to take the gifts. They do, and I turn and ask if she has any more babies and she says, “two boys.” Heck, I got some for them too and go back to the car. When I get back to mom, she is crying softly, and the girls are smiling just a big as they can and just cradling those gifts. I place the boys’ gifts in her basket, which I see now contains clothes, either for washing or ironing.
When I turn to say goodbye, mom grabs my left hand and starts kissing it! She is still crying and starts with in Spanish, “Christ, oh thank you. Christ, oh thank you. Father, thank you. Thank you, Christ. Bless you sir. Bless you, sir. Father, oh Father, thank you.”
Guess what, this cold, tired middle-aged sergeant brought their only Christmas to these folks. Actually, I didn’t. Go figure, four gifts, the timing, the unfamiliar street, two girls, two boys. I got in my car and started driving off, when I looked in my review mirror, mom was crossing herself and did so until I couldn’t see her any more. Couldn’t tell that story without crying for many years. Wonder if the little girls remember that Christmas Eve when a sinner (I’m only human) brought them Christmas in the back of a Black and White. The whole thing did not hit me until hours later. Tonight, I just might take my cruiser to Rampart and finally have that cigar that I missed on that hill Christmas Eve, 1992.