25.Dec.2010 Running Santa
It was cold and dark still. The early morning traffic was light, if not non-existent. During the day the steady flow of traffic (both foot and vehicular) changed the available landscape dramatically. But at this early hour the pavement was clear and open.
I took a deep breath and two bounds down the short landing to the sidewalk and started my music in a fluid motion. I was off and jogging down the smooth red brick.
After a few minutes I turned to go up through the town center. The snow on the ground had been reduced to icy lumps on both sides of the walkway. The shop lights were still on showcasing the holiday decorations adorning the window displays of the hippest clothing, most advanced electronics and other shiny new toys. Red, green, blue and white lights blinked on all sides, accented with the flashing yellow and red of the traffic lights.
A few blocks later and the shops were gone. The sidewalk winding down hill towards the running path along the main road was lined with home decorated to various degrees. The spartan but charming fake candles in each window at one house. Another with a fat inflated Santa-scene in a snow globe with it’s automatic fan humming throughout the night to keep it inflated. Hand tied ribbons adorned the next house. A red velvet bow tied along it’s cast iron railing and on the evergreen wreath on the door.
After 20 minutes I still hadn’t seen another soul. No cars or dogs or other crazy runners are up this early on Christmas morning, I thought as I veered off the sidewalk onto the paved path along the river. Most normal people are still enjoying the warmth of their beds.
My breathing steadily coinciding with every other stride as I surveyed the pavement ahead. Luckily night was starting to fade and the pre-dawn light exposed the worst patches of black ice. I followed the path to it’s end into a cul-de-sac and continued past the huge brick townhouses. In the dim light their most severe flaws and cracked bricks were hidden and they were temporarily transformed to their former glorious states. Their decorations were a little disheveled here and there but the spirit of the holidays permeated the long row of housing.
I took a right and was startled by a shadow moving quickly between the houses up ahead. Whenever I’m running in the morning I get spooked by the simplest of things: a squirrel running between a shrub and tree or a deer standing perfectly still. I slowed immediately and squinted to see better. Whatever it was wasn’t moving again and wasn’t immediately in sight. I slowed and stopped; straining my eyes to see the movement again. Suddenly it, rather, he, bounded off of a stoop and ran toward me and to another house on the street. This was actually a pretty normal sight in the early AM outside the city. Delivering papers is still done door to door. But do they deliver on Christmas? I asked myself as I resumed my jog. We closed the distance and the so-called “paper boy” and noticed that there was no car following where his papers were stashed. Maybe its the end of his route, I concluded.
At about 100 yards I noticed the all red running suit with white accents. Festive. The hat to match was a nice touch. He bounded up a stoop and crouched just for a second. He turned and jumped down the 5 stairs and hit the ground running to the next house across the yard; when running between houses he was moving quickly, much faster than my own pace. At about 10 yards I noticed as he crouched he left a shiny silver envelope at each door step and had a handful in his left hand and a quiver peaking out of the pocket of his red running pants. He stood, turned and leap down to ground level from another porch and landed soundlessly on the ground poised to move but perfectly still as if startled to see me. I speechlessly raised an arm to wave and continued by. He winked and started running as if off a set of blocks. The red runner sped across the grass and headed towards another porch. I turned and craned my neck but only caught a flash of red disappear down the street.
I continued jogging on my way back home. Each house I passed had a shiny envelope at the front door, waiting for the home owners to finish their traditional Christmas morning exercises: rooting through stockings, opening presents and cooking Christmas-y breakfasts. What a great additional gesture of cheer the Running Santa was bestowing to the neighborhood, I thought. Cheered myself by the random act of kindness. I took the next left and headed back towards home. A few flurries had started to fall and the first early morning drivers were starting to venture out towards their Christmas morning destinations. My destination was the warmth of our living room with crackling fire. My plans were hot spiced coffee and a relaxing day of Christmas classics and preparing the traditional evening meal. A day of rest without the to-do lists or computer screen.
I rounded the final bend and climbed the last short incline. Despite the frigid air I sweaty and damp, but thoroughly warmed from the jog. Our windows were still dark inside but each was bordered with a string of white lights. At the bottom of the steps I stopped to stretch, beginning a perfectly relaxing Christmas. After a few minutes I started up the stairs toward the door, and just missed stepping on the shiny silver envelop with wishes and words for the holiday and New Year.
Merry Christmas from the Running Santa.