Sunday, December 25, 2005

It's All David Matthew's Fault

It was all David Matthews’ fault. Maybe he should not have done it. Or maybe he should have. Anyway, he did and that’s why it was entirely his fault. But let me start at the beginning.

When school turned out for the Christmas Holidays in December 1941, my parents took me to Dr. Bybee’s office in downtown Beaumont to have my tonsils removed. Evidently this was the perfect time for kids to have a tonsillectomy because they could avoid missing school time. I recall seeing all the beautiful Christmas decorations. Christmas lights of various colors were strung across Pearl and Orleans Streets. Both of these were two-way streets in those days. There were policemen at every intersection blowing whistles and directing the madhouse Christmas traffic.

A few days after having my tonsils taken out, Ms. Ruth Hill, my first grade teacher, stopped by the house to visit. She gave me a little red toy fire truck for a “sick present.” I loved it. She knew I would. Forty years later my wife and I visited Ms. Hill at the hospital in Beaumont. She lived to be in her 90’s. I gave her a little red toy fire truck for a “sick present.” She loved it. I knew she would. Were those tears in her eyes? I know there were in mine.

But back to David Matthews. He and I were first graders together. Also we were neighbors. Both of us were pretty excited because Christmas was right around the corner. We were expecting lots of gifts, otherwise known as toys.

And then it happened. David and I were playing at his house one afternoon. I mentioned how that my dad was going to make sure that Santa received a list of the things I wanted for Christmas. David said, “Don’t you know that there’s no such thing as Santa Claus?” I stared at David while a thousand thoughts raced through my head. Had David fallen and hit his head on something? Was he all right?

Well, after much consideration and adjusting of life’s concepts, I accepted the reality that my parents had been enjoying the Santa game at my expense. At least that was my first inclination. So I decided to play a game with them. In other words I was going to watch for a chance to get even.

I kept this new information to myself and watched as my parents went through the motions of telling me to be good so that Santa Claus would come to our house, etc. We had several gifts under the tree already but they told me that Santa would bring more gifts for Christmas morning.

Finally Christmas morning rolled around. I jumped up early and went to wake up my parents. My mother opened one eye and told me to go check under the Christmas tree to see if Santa had come. I checked and sure enough there were several gifts that had not been there the night before. Then a little “light of mischief” entered my mind. I returned to my parents bedroom and informed them in sad tone that, “Yes, Santa came but he didn’t leave anything. In fact he took what was already there. Now there’s nothing under the tree.”
My mother popped up out of bed really fast. Even my dad grunted. Well, they found out that I played a trick on them. All the stuff was still there under the tree. But now they knew that I knew who Santa Claus really was. My mom scolded me for giving her such a scare.

I told her simply, “It’s all David Matthews’ fault.”

Winston Hamby


Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Big "70"

This may sound a little self-centered but then that’s OK with me …

The Big 70

This is the week of the big “70.” At least this is my week of my big “70.” Yep, I will be observing my 70th birthday on October 21. This is quite a feat for someone who has never been 70 before.

You know, you really don’t get to practice “old age.” You just get one shot at it with no dress rehearsals. Either you’re a smash hit or else you are off the charts.

I recall my personal definition of a teenager. A teenager is, “A restless bored human being just waiting around for something exciting to happen.” At least that is how I felt about it when I was a teenager. And now at age 70, I find myself still a little restless but not so bored. A lot of exciting things came along during my years leading up to this week.

Let’s see. There was the Pan American Jazz Band. I played trombone with that group till my military service ended in April 1961. Then with my accounting degree, I worked for a C. P. A. firm for a couple of years. Now get this: The C. P. A. firm was called Maschek, Hamby, Miller, Miller, Funchess and White. The receptionist had to say the whole thing every time she answered the phone.

I didn’t care much for accounting … too confining for my restless spirit. So I went into banking in Beaumont. With First Security National Bank for five years then with Village State Bank for three years. Then there was the church ministry. I was a minister for 22 years. Then I went into the death-care industry, working in sales for a funeral home in Beaumont before transferring to Houston to work in Personnel for the same company.

What does all this mean? Why am I sharing this with you? It may not mean much to anyone but me. Remember this my week of the big “70.” So I’m shouting it to the world.

It now appears after all of this time that I am a musician without a band, an accountant without an office, a banker without a bank, a preacher without a church, a salesman without a product and a personnel clerk without a title. Oh, they call me “New Hire Coordinator.” That sounds more official than calling me “The Clerk.”

But this all brings me down to … well, to now. What do I know about the big “70?” For one thing it took 70 years to get here. No one has ever reached 70 without first clearing the hurdles of the 30’s, the 40’s, 50’s, etc. This is why I have stated that, “I have been practicing for a long time to be 70.” Now that I am 70, I want to be sure I do it right.

As I think about all this, I’m reminded of loving parents who sacrificed mightily to provide for me a high degree of spiritual training as well as instilling within me the capacity to have love and respect for my fellowman. I think of my schoolteachers at J. L. Giles Elementary, MacArthur Junior High and South Park High School. Each one had great qualities to share with their students. They were good at what they did.

Then I married a beautiful Godly woman who has been a person of strength to me for more than 42 years. I consider her a gift from God and treat her as such. And our two beautiful children, also from God, have lifted my spirit daily.

Reaching the big “70” is not so bad. In fact, it’s great. You ought to try it.

Winston Hamby