“Up on the rooftop – click, click, click – down through the chimney with good Saint Nick.” Agnes sang softly as she wrapped the multi-colored lights around the fir tree that stood proudly in a corner of the hotel lobby. It was one of four seemingly perfect ten foot conifers with not a bare branch to be found. The hotel manager pulled out all the stops when it came to decorating for the holidays. Agnes worked with a man on a ladder to decorate this tree, while others scurried about hanging lights, wreaths, garland, and realistic looking snowmen, and turning the south Florida hotel into a winter wonderland.
“My dad used to sing that.” The man on the ladder said as he took the string of lights from Agnes and circled it around to meet her on the other side. He reached over to settle the green strand on the branches in such a way that the cord couldn’t be seen. “I used to think it was about a little boy who got to travel with Saint Nick.”
Agnes smiled as she took the string of lights from him and walked them around the tree again. Handing them back to him, she looked up and saw the faraway smile on his face. She was surprised to see how young he looked.
“I wanted to be that little boy.” The man said. “I thought it would be so cool to slide down the chimney and leave presents for all the little boys and girls.” He sighed and wrapped the lights around to the top of the tree. “Sorry. I get nostalgic around this time.”
“So do a lot of people,” Agnes said apologetically. She stood back and watched the man climb down from the ladder.
“He died the day before Christmas.” The man said, his eyes glassy. “Six years ago.”
Agnes didn’t know what to say. She turned from him and opened the hatbox of glittering ornaments designated for their tree. She handed a shining green orb to the man and gave him a small smile.
“I don’t think we’ve met. You just started here, didn’t you? I’m George.” He said kindly as he gently hung an ornament from a branch and turned to shake Agnes’s hand.
“Agnes. And yes. I started a week ago.” She took his hand and let hers be enveloped in his warmth.
“Do you have family, Agnes, nearby for the holidays?”
“No.” She said, barely above a whisper. “No family nearby.”
He slowly released her hand and reached into the box for another ornament. “It’s hard to be alone this time of year, isn’t it?” He withdrew a silver ball from the box and looked at Agnes for confirmation that she agreed with him. She nodded. “Well, there’s a couple of us on staff that get together every year for Christmas Eve. We go out for dinner, have a few drinks, and it’s a lot of fun. I think you should join us this year.”
Agnes hesitated for only a moment before smiling brightly and saying she thought it sounded like a lovely idea.