"Park City, Kansas," She proudly proclaimed to us, as if the city of her youth had been Shangri-La itself. "That’s where I’m from."
As she deftly maneuvered her wheelchair through the throngs of people, she observed a street-preacher crying from atop a soapbox about ‘Keeping Christ in Christmas,’ and intreating his listeners to ‘not give in to Earthly temptation’ by wishing one another Happy Holidays. She saw the stores light up their neon advertisements, glaring ugly red and green cheer across the street at each other. Against the baroque sunset, the coastal mountains loomed shockingly clear in the distance; for morning rains had driven the perpetual smog away for a short time, seemingly to add to the festivities. There was to be a parade tonight.
"Thank you guys for the cookies." She said, as she gently began to push the door shut. Sirens blared all around the half-vacant lot where the rows of decrepit motel rooms house the city’s forgotten souls. "It’s cold out tonight."
Flora wanted to see the parade. She loved Christmas lights. Her daughter did too. Or, at least she did when they had spoken last. That had been many Christmases ago. She wondered where her daughter was, and if she still liked Christmas lights. She hoped that she did, and that she was able to see many of them this year. Maybe she even had a big tree of her own, covered in the finest, most dazzling lights. Maybe, she had even made it out to Kansas. Flora’s daughter had never been to Kansas, as far as she knew, but all through her childhood, she had been told of the glories of the open plains, the large houses, spread so far apart, and the big clear sky. A sky without any smog.
The floats were beginning to line up along the downtown streets. Some of the lights shone crystal and white, while others exploded with colour, intermingling with the red and green of the traffic lights and the neon signs decorating the stores. The lights and the thronging people made a cacophony of Christmas bustle, streaming and screaming into the streets. Flora was very cold as the warm bodies pressed in upon her. I’ll die in California, she thought. What if I never get to see Kansas again? The face of her daughter filled her mind. When was the last time they had spoke? She wanted to talk to her again. It was Christmas after all. She wanted to talk to her about the lights, and how beautiful they were. Suddenly, the lights blurred together to form a sticky mess of festivities. Flora realized that she was crying. One man threw a quick look of pity to the woman seated in a wheelchair, with tear stains beginning to track dirt across her face, while another shot a look of sheer disgust. But most of the crowd simply pressed past, following the spectacle of light. Through Flora’s tears, the parade marched on.
The shadows were long and worrisome as she dragged her wheelchair, using her feet, down the dark and wind-swept street. The streetlights and passing cars cast shapes of dreams upon the grey-scale buildings, playing out old memories as if on a television screen. The chilling breeze nipped at her hands, but she didn’t notice. She was absorbed with the image of her daughter’s face, which was momentarily impressed upon the brick wall of an aging office complex by the fleeting headlights of a semi-truck. She could hear the last words the hurting mother had spoken to her hurting daughter in full surround-sound with the truck driver’s horn. Kansas, she thought. Where the cars didn’t move so fast. Where it snowed on Christmas. Where the lights seemed to warmly smile upon you; instead of cooly glowing as stars, detached by millions and millions of miles. Maybe she had made it to Kansas.
"I’ve got to go in now. I’ll let all the air out otherwise. It’s cold out tonight." She gratefully peered through the sliver of light at us. "Thank you guys for the cookies." The half-broken door to the motel room shut, and the light went out.
"What did she say her name was again?"
"Oh, that’s a beautiful name!"
"Yes, it is."
The door again timidly opened, as she gently cried, “Merry Christmas.”