Holiday Digest: A Laguna Christmas

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By Rodney Hatter 

It was the first Christmas after my marriage separation, and my former wife had custody of our two sons for Christmas Eve. I was lonely in my apartment on Cliff Drive near Main Beach. 

My next-door neighbor Janet sensed this and knocked on my apartment door. She and her friend Jackie were going to Christmas Eve Mass at St. Catherine Catholic Church and invited me to join them. I was not Catholic, but that was not important. Suddenly, I felt less lonely.

The Laguna village area was extremely quiet as we walked up Forest Avenue, enjoying the holiday decorations of the shops even though all were closed by now. We walked in silence and tranquility. Memories of Christmas Eve past ran through my mind.

A recent one had been in Georgetown, Colorado, a picturesque old mining town 60 miles west of Denver. Snow was lightly falling on my family’s walk to the tiny church, and we could hear carols in the background. The church could hold only 20 people; it quickly filled up. The children’s choir stole the show.

Another memory was from living in New York City. I came from a small Kansas town, but I thought New York was the place for me. On Christmas Eve, it becomes a very quiet place as New Yorkers either go home, to dinner, or to a party. Since I had a car, I took it out and drove around Manhattan. 

It was eerily quiet, but joy and peace were in the air. Snow began to fall as I drove down Park Avenue. It continued as I drove through Greenwich Village, Union Square and the Wall Street area. As snow accumulated on the sidewalks and parked cars, it became very quiet. The lack of taxis, delivery trucks and even pedestrians was extraordinary. I felt like it really was “My Town.”

After mass in Laguna Beach, the three of us walked home, but only after a lingering stop at the gazebo in Heisler Park, a magical place any time of the year. We three held hands with the spirit of Christmas around us and felt the serenity of life in Laguna Beach. Was that snow gently coming down? Or simply tears of joy?

Rodney Hatter is a retired franchise lawyer. His most recent practice was in Laguna Beach.

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