This story is how I remember it. I may have some parts incorrect; and hopefully my parents will forgive me.
When I was 11, my father and his girlfriend married. At the time, as an American Baptist minister, the church wasn’t too thrilled with having a divorced leader, single father, now married to his much younger second wife. He resigned and began looking for work at another Baptist church. Apparently, in 1980, the American Baptists, as liberal as they were, were not THAT liberal. He couldn’t find a job as a minister, and to support our family, he took a job at Woolco Department Store. In the Automotive Department. Those of you who know my Dad are cracking up at that last statement. Those of you who don’t, well, my Dad knows nothing about cars. I grew up in a family that took their cars to the dealership to get them checked. This horrifies my husband who can pretty much fix anything in a car, most recently taking the entire back seat out of our Jeep to fix the emergency brake.
We went from living in a 30+ room Baptist parsonage into a 2-bedroom apartment downtown. This barely phased me. Yes, I had to carry my bike upstairs every day and walk to school a different way, but my parents did their best to maintain my active 12-year-old life in children’s theatre and other activities. I did have to temporarily give away my two cats and was given a guinea pig I named Theodore G. Pig to fulfill my pet needs. I got one of the cats back when we moved away after Dad became a Methodist, but that’s another story.
Dad loses his job at Woolco. Was it because he knew nothing about cars? No. It was because he talked to the customers too much. He’s a minister. That’s what he does. Talks to people about their lives, their desires, and their prayers. He couldn’t help who he was, right? I think of this sacrifice that he made for our family, to keep us from poverty. What a stretch that was for him.
And I think today of the people I know of who would never get a job at Wal-Mart after losing a professional position. I think of young people I know who would never work as a server because it is beneath them.
The happy ending is that my Dad got a part-time gig as a preacher in a Methodist church about 40 miles north of where we lived. They loved him and encouraged him to convert. This was also a stretch. He was a born and bred Baptist. He grew up in a Baptist church in Worcester, MA, went to a Baptist youth camp in Maine, and graduated from a Baptist seminary in Rochester, NY. But he was ahead of the times and better than the Baptists. He decided to go for it and took classes at a local seminary to learn about Methodism.
He worked as a Methodist minister, after that, for the rest of his career holding two churches at a time in two different locations in Maine. His last gig was, thankfully, one church, for ten years, in Massachusetts. People loved him. After retirement he became a part-time organist to help add to his pensions.
I call this a Christmas story because it came up on Christmas Eve in conversation with my husband, after looking at an old picture of myself one of those Christmases in that apartment. And I think of the lesson it has taught me about stretching ourselves when we need to and stretching ourselves when we have to. It taught me that no job is ever “beneath” us, no matter how we have been raised. It exemplifies the spirit of Christmas in the giving of self and selflessness. My Dad taught me this and was selfless in so many ways. I am lucky to have him as a father.
It has been 22 years since I shared Christmas day with my father and step-mother. Merry Christmas Dad.