April 24, 2018

My Corner of the Canyon: A Visit from Old St. Grinch


On a drizzly morning, fast approaching deep December, just when I’m not looking, a depression sets in.

A real holiday funk. Of course it can be stressful at Christmas time, especially when one is overwhelmed with operations of a struggling burger joint, but not to welcome the season with open joyous arms is not like me.

I even turned away from a Christmas song on the radio deeming it, ‘too early’. Something was very wrong. It was as if The Grinch himself came down our ancient Topanga chimney and laughed at me in his horrible Grinchy way reciting his evil rhyme,

“No Christmas is coming for you this year!

I’ll steal your hope, I’ll rob your cheer!

Your credit cards are all used up, the engine’s gone on Michael’s truck,

And the photo you took of the tots, is really bad, it stinks a lot!

But what matter a Christmas card? To buy the stamps will be too hard.”

I push away the Grinches’ chant.

I, Kathie Gibboney, am certainly of a ‘Who’ nature filled with mirth and merry. He can not take that from me. ‘Christmas doesn’t come from a store.’ I proceed to clean the litter box, attempting to be of a happy heart, pondering how much longer until I have to invest in fresh litter as that stuff is pricy. Just then he rounds the corner and starts in,

“You can’t pay the rent,

you’re life is a mess,

And for your dear daughter,

there’ll be no new dress.”

OK, OK, I mutter, so she’ll wear an old dress, it will be alright. She’s beautiful no matter what. She understands we don’t have a lot of money this year. Maybe it’s good to experience hardship, to know you can’t always get whatever you want, perhaps it helps you to appreciate what you have. Struggle is, ‘good for character development,’ as my mother used to say, maybe my Miranda is learning a valuable lesson. I walk purposely over to the ever growing pile of credit card bills, select one and call the service number.

“Happy Holidays,” I greet the representative when, at last, they are, available. Attempting to sound casual, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, I proceed, “I’d like to request a credit line increase, please.”

There is silence from the other end. Perhaps the person on the line is stunned at the absurdity of my request. Maybe looking over my questionable credit report, which even I do not have the courage to see has rendered the operator unable to speak. I imagine the man sitting there in shock, a look of flummoxed disbelief on his face.

Finally he manages to answer in his strange unidentifiable accent; “Unfortunately we can not increase your limit at this time. The bank has merged with Master Card and they are not increasing any limits. It’s not you,” he assures me, but I think I detect him laughing as we hang up. Grinch sneers at me,

“No presents underneath the tree,

if you even get one, pines aren’t free.

Your children will both cry, “Boo hoo”,

Though they’ve been good

the whole year through.

Stockings empty, drooping limp,

goodies taken by my imp!”

Just then the phone rings and although it’s an, ‘out of area’ call I answer. A recorded voice says something about a survey and that if I agree to take part I will be entered in a drawing the very next day for the chance to win $25,000 to pay off credit card bills or use however I like.

I know I shouldn’t fall for it, I know I should hang up but I can hear the Grinch,

“On Christmas morning, nothing there,

No sign of Santa anywhere”

I find my finger pushing the number 1 on the phone as instructed. Maybe this is a Christmas miracle, maybe this will save Christmas. There is nothing coming from the other end of the line but strange clicking noises. I realize immediately that I’ve been had. I’m sure there’s some elaborate scam where all that was needed to complete the complex technical machinations was the final push of the 1 from my end of the phone to provide the hackers unlimited access to all accounts and bank information, (a lot of good it will do them).

Why just the week before someone had sent random e-mails from our address and caused us to secure things but now I’ve been a willing and stupid participant in unleashing who knows what new havoc. I spend the rest of the morning on the phone with Verizon making sure there is no unusual or suspicious activity with our lines. Guess I won’t be seeing that 25 grand.

“In happy stories you believed?

Oh my dear you’ve been deceived.

Of little babes in Bethlehem,

of friendly lion and gentle lamb.

No star shines bright both day and night,

No guidance to that perfect light.”

The drizzly day darkens. Rummaging through purses trying to collect money to cover a check, wondering what a new tire will cost, and how to help Riley pay for college, I cry just a little. Then I gather all my courage and step into the bathroom to ready myself for work as the Hamburger Hostess. My God the woman in the mirror looks old, I realize it’s the graying roots that are especially telling, but I’ve no money for a trip to the salon. I’ll have to wear a hat. Then something happens.

­The light bulb­ in our bathroom sometimes has a strange trick of growing steadily lighter after you flick the switch. It’s somewhat like ‘coming on’ to a psychedelic drug. As I stood there, the light became increasingly bright, brighter then I’d ever noticed. And it glowed around me. It glowed like God and was warm and my roots didn’t look so gray anymore.

That day I took with me to Shaka Shack a fine light up plastic elf given to me by Linda Heinrichs at a Topanga Swap Meet and Chili Cookoff some years ago, and boxes of Christmas lights, never opened I find conveniently stashed behind a cabinet in our living room.

As I was placing them in the window at the Shack a little girl waked by with her parents on the way to the free clinic next door. She looked up at the elf and me and smiled. And there was Christmas.

Later I ran into Dennis, my hairdresser at Vons and he offers to do my hair for free, “Maybe trade for some burgers,” he suggests, little knowing what an angle he is.

The tire was able to be repaired. Saturday we did the best day we’d ever had at Shaka Shack. I turn up the volume and sing along, “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!”

On the morning of December 25th, with whatever abundance or lack there of we have, may I be blessed enough to look around at my family in a place called Topanga and say of Christmas,

“He hadn’t stopped Christmas

from coming, it came.

Somehow or other

it came just the same.”