Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Christmas Eve Tradition

One of my fondest holiday memories is not a special Christmas morning, or my first bicycle it is actually Christmas Eve at my father's drug store.

Our small town had three or four local drug stores and all the pharmacists were good friends. Everyone in town had "their" drugstore and rarely did anyone stray. Dad's store was on the street with the doctor's offices behind the hospital - a very strategic location. But he was all about customer service. Just for example - a customer, Mrs. McGee, who happened to live around the block, commented one day that it would be helpful it he carried quart containers of milk along with the pint sizes he had in the drink box. Sure enough, the next week when the Pet milk man came in, Dad placed a standing order for Mrs. McGee's milk. She knew it would be there every week for her.

As you can imagine Dad got to know all his customers very well. After all, this was a long time before Wal-mart and Target. Besides prescriptions and other medications, he carried a complete line of cosmetics, magazines, snacks, drinks, and ice cream, Hallmark greeting cards, and an incredible assortment of chocolate candies. Let me tell you I honed my art of wrapping gifts on boxes of Whitman Samplers. I can wrap one in my sleep! I digress.

But everyone knew that you stopped by Dad's store on Christmas Eve. The festivities started around noon when folks started bringing in goodies - cakes, tins of cookies, homemade snack mix. When it first started, Dad furnished the food, but over the years, as it grew, everyone wanted to contribute their "special" dish to the event. Every time the delivery boy came in, he would be loaded down with more contributions. Then the customers and friends would start dropping by to visit, eat, and wish everyone holiday cheer. By five o'clock the store was still open but a sign went up stating "The Pharmacy was closed" and the bar was open. Then the party started.

Dad would set up a full bar on the counter where he and the other pharmacists normally filled prescriptions and everyone would gather around and "a good time would be had by all". Everyone loved my Dad. In fact, even my friends would drop by during my college years and later, not to see me, but to visit with Dad. Only after everyone else had left, would we clean up and make our way home to crawl in bed and ready ourselves for Christmas morning.

My father passed away nine years ago and had sold his drug store many years before that, but to this day, every Christmas, I still have people in town stop me and say, "You know I was thinking the other day about going by your Dad's drugstore on Christmas Eve." I'm pretty sure Christmas Eve at my Dad's store was part of many local folk's holiday tradition and he enjoyed every minute of it. I know I did.

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