An Old Fashioned Christmas
Living in South Padre Island, Texas for the last 3 years had been the best life Mickie had ever know. She had been dating a local guy for the last year or so but when things started to feel permanent, she cut herself loose. She didn't want to belong to him. She didn't want a relationship with strings and obligations. She had worked far too hard for far too long to lose everything in her business life just to be with someone. Her business was everything. She wanted to make money while she was young and free so that when she was ready to settle down, she would be able to walk away from her business and throw herself into the life of wife and possibly motherhood, or possibly not. She had not decided yet if children were part of her long range plan.
The one clear and definite thing in Mickie's mind was that this business was everything she had ever hoped for and everything she wanted was happening for her, right now. She had moved to South Padre Island to take over a business on the island. It was a candle making business that she had visited some years earlier. The homemade candles were soy wax and she had purchased several to take home. After getting home, she realized these were the best candles she had ever burned. The fragrance was intense, but not overbearing and the colors were subtle yet perfect and the containers were glass jars of various sizes of a unique shape. They resembled old medicine bottles with wide mouth openings.
Shortly after re-ordering candles from this shop for the 6th or 7th time, she got a note from the owner explaining that she had put the store up for sale. Her health was failing and she and her husband had decided they needed to kick back a bit and enjoy their lives just a bit more. The candle making was taking far more of her time than she now wanted to give. There had been no 'lookers' to date, but she wanted Mickie to know it was a possibility. She went on to explain that the two younger girls she had met in the shop would be pretty much taking over until a sale could be completed. She thanked Mickie for her continued support and hoped she would continue to receive quality merchandise and excellent customer service.
Mickie was immediately struck with her brand new plan. She needed to work her buns off for a while and find enough money to buy this place. She needed to have the life she had tasted on her vacation just 2 years prior. Currently she was employed in a dead end, but good paying job. She was customer service, from her home for a company that manufactured fans. All she did was handle customer concerns and email reports. Because she was on call 24/7, she was well compensated. If she took on a few children to babysit while their moms worked, she could sock away enough in no time to buy that business and make the move. She knew of some discontented moms and she made some calls. It took her four days to get 5 kids under 4 all for five days a week until the end of the year. She made it clear to each mom that she planned to be leaving the state in January of the following year. This was February, so they could get this 11 month deal. She would watch their kids, any hours, at her home up to 50 hours a week, not including meals, for $100. If they had 2 kids, $150 for the two. If she was providing the food, it would be $50 more per child. No days off, she would be available 7 days and whatever hours they needed. She would not be taking a vacation and she would expect them to pay her half of their fee if they took one.
The next call was to the candle shop.
Mickie explained her plan and wondered if there was any chance that the owner of the shop could just hang on until January. She explained her plan to be able to make the move in 11 months and would bring cash to buy her out. The candle shop owner had a better plan. She counter offered with the idea of Mickie sending her $400 a month from now until she moved and they would send her a contract stating that she did in fact own the business as soon as they received the first payment. The contract would spell out all the details, but mainly that the current owner would be working for Mickie as her manager until she could physically take over. The $400 monthly would continue until the business was paid in full or Mickie could opt at any point to pay it off.
Mickie accepted. She was a woman of her word and stayed until January. The kids were a lot of work, but she actually enjoyed having them around. She never went out, she didn't shop and money built up in her account. She sent her payment to Texas regularly and handled a few decisions over the phone. Mostly things went smoothly on both ends during this transitional period.
Now that she had been on the island for a few years, she was more determined than ever to just sock money away and build this business into a mega store. The candles got more and more unique as she explored and experimented with all kinds of options. They were not inexpensive, but they were 'must haves' for all the locals and Winter Texans (the northerners who winter on the island or nearby) couldn't get enough of them. Her next move was to donate a few dozen to each of the many restaurants on the island with tags attached as advertisement. Some of the restaurants had even implied they could make a small display for her at or near their check out. They would get a buck or so per sale, but they would also not have to buy replacement candles for their tables, if they wanted to replace them. Everything was going well, business wise.
The break-up was inevitable because he was more interested than she was. She really enjoyed the occasional dinner out and having someone to talk to on the evenings she spent at home, but otherwise, he wasn't the one.
Her Christmas sales had been amazing. People were buying and ordering candles shipped all over the country every single day. Some were buying dozens of varied sizes and colors and then calling back to add on. She was having the best quarter since she had taken over the store.
On the 15th of December her number one sales gal and candle maker, Adele, asked if she would like to have Christmas dinner with her family. Mickie had met all of the family at other events where they included her as if she was one of them. She agreed and actually began to look forward to the day, which she had not done in many years, if ever really. Mickie was an orphan, raised in a group home and Christmas was not much, to say the least. She had never really had an old fashioned Christmas.
They closed the store at 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Adele went home to her family and Mickie went to the local pub a few blocks from her home. She ordered a drink and sat quietly in the corner looking around at the usual patrons. She knew them all and ordinarily would have spoken with them and shared a few laughs. Tonight she was just tired. She finished her drink and headed home to shower and fall into bed.
Mickie arrived at Adele's large home on the Lagoon side of the island. So much quieter here than on the Gulf side, where Mickie lives. No waves rushing to the sandy beaches crashing and rolling endlessly, just silence. She was welcomed immediately and rushed into the dining area where the bar was set up. Drinks in hand she and Adele headed out to the back deck where most of the family was hanging out, laughing and talking and munching on some wonderful snacks Mrs. Rodriguez had prepared that morning. The smell of the cooking dinner was practically irresistible to
Mickie. Though she was a good cook, she hadn't cooked a meal in months. By the time she got home from the store each night, she had no interest or energy to create anything other than a lump in her bed.
The table was set with red china. All the serving dishes were white and everything was sitting on a magnificent handmade table covering. It was from Mexico, she was told, an aunt had given it to the Rodriguezes for their wedding some 38 years ago. The aunt had made it and had done so for every niece in this very large family. The wine was also homemade by an uncle who owns a vineyard and was beyond description. The food was endless. It just kept coming out and being devoured and more would come out. There was talking. All the time, talking and laughing and Mickie was having the most wonderful Christmas of her life. The love in this house was contagious. She felt wanted and warm and like never in her life, part of a family.
In the years to come, whenever Mickie thinks of Christmas, she will think of this day. After the perfect dinner, there were a few small gifts for everyone, including her. Her gift was a handmade shawl. Beautiful traditional Mexican colors of red, green, white, blue and yellow stripes. She had thrown it on her sofa and used it every time she sat to watch TV or read a book. It reminded her of her one and only old fashioned Christmas, Mexican style. Her style now.
Padre Island life was so perfect for Mickie and her life was heading exactly where she was driving it. Christmas had opened her heart for the first time possibly ever. The family she had become part of was her lifeline and her business was her foundation.
Once upon an old fashioned Christmas Mickie found her place in the world.