Here's Hoping the Holidays Catch Up With You Too

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It was suddenly time to get ready for the office holiday party. Nothing was ready and the mood on the streets was bleak. Smack in the middle of all that, Rita Henley Jensen stumbled into the holiday spirit. Here's how it happened.

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Season's Greetings

'Hey, It's OK'

"Hey, you don't have to walk so fast. It is OK."

"But don't you have to watch your trees?"

"My friend will watch it." He points at a man standing behind a large lunch cart.

I slow down.

"It's kind of nice to take a little break during the day," I say, suddenly delighted to be outside, walking and talking and carrying a holiday tree stand.

"Yes," he says with a big smile.

"So where are you from?" I ask.


"Oh, are things OK now in Turkey?"

"Not so OK for me. I am actually Kurdish."

I stop at this reference to the hostilities between the Turkish government and the Kurdish people who insist on their autonomy.

"Oh, I know a little about that because of my job. I am a journalist."

"Oh, a journalist. I own four stores there, in the tourist area."

"Four stores?"

"Yes," he says, with a shy laugh. "I bet you are wondering why I am here selling Christmas trees on the street? I close the stores in the winter and I come here to make money."

"Do you have a family in Turkey?"

"No, but I have a daughter in England."

"Do you see her often?"

"About once a year."

"Only once a year. That must make you sad."

"Yes. Sad."

"Are you married or divorced," he asks.

My internal green-card warning system goes off and starts flashing: Watch out. He is only being nice because he wants to marry you to get his papers. I try to turn it off.

"Why do you ask?"

"No reason. I just asked."

Walking in Silence

We walk without talking until we get to the Women's eNews office.

"Where are your stores in Turkey?" I ask, as he puts the tree down. "I'll look up the town on the Internet.

"I don't know the name in English."

He hands me his card and I go to my computer, looking up his stores.

"You must come to Turkey on a holiday and visit my stores," he says.

"Yes, I must go to Turkey one day."

"Do you want help putting up the tree?"

The resident fixer-of-things had already begun the task and assured him she could do just fine without him.

But I looked at him and decided to offer him a bit more money and ask him to do it. After all, he did it for a living. He had it up in what seemed like two minutes. I came to inspect.

As he turned to leave, he said "thank you" and leaned forward and gave me an enthusiastic kiss on my cheek.

I laughed and waved, grateful that the holidays had brought me such warmth on a cold winter afternoon and that just by walking a few blocks in downtown Manhattan I could meet a Turkish Kurd with a family in England who wintered in New York who invited me to visit his shop in a small town on the Mediterranean coast.

Several staff members stopped work and said how much they enjoyed the tree. I rushed off to buy the food and soda for the party. By the time I returned, the fall semester intern had walked in loaded with baked chicken and vegetarian lasagna, enough for all.

I hope during this holiday season you too have a chance to take an unexpected slow walk in the middle of the afternoon and receive an enthusiastic kiss and the approval of those nearest you.

Rita Henley Jensen is editor in chief of Women's eNews.

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