Christmas Eve In The Coffee Shop

Version 2

Downtown Bellingham, Washington

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m looking up at a pine covered hilltop draped in mist, “The Funeral” by Band of Horses is playing overhead and the hiss of milk being steamed bounces off the rustic wood and stone surfaces that surround me. Grey hairs out number blonds and brunettes in the coffee shop by three to one. The young hairs discuss their Christmas break plans then move on. The grey hairs sit one to a table staring at computer screens or out the window at the grey skies and falling rain. There’s no indication that they will be moving on anytime soon.

A man a few tables over starts a conversation with another by showing him a picture of a TV dinner on his computer.

Version 2

Downtown Bellingham, Washington

“That’s what I’m having for Christmas supper”, he announces.

“That’s what I had for Thanksgiving”, his new friend replies. “Swanson’s the best. They’re a dollar most places but you can get ’em for eighty-eight cents at Safeway. “

Their conversation continues and includes where they grew up, where they’ve lived and where they nearly met decades ago.

“I grew up near Malibu. No one lived there then.”, the man with the computer says.

“Really? I lived in West Hollywood but we would go to the beach in Malibu to drop acid. We had to smoke marijuana afterwards to get enough energy to make it home”.

“We moved from Malibu to Hawaii.”, the man with the computer continues.

“Where in Hawaii?”, asks the other as he rubs the frost colored stubble on his chin.


“Maui! I lived there in the sixties at a hippy nudest colony on the beach. We were next to a colony of Christian hippies. Cops never bothered them but they were always hassling us.”


Sitting at one of the high tables is a woman with thick white hair that curls at her shoulders. The hair style was popular when I was a kid and referred to as the “flip”. She places an elbow on the counter and her hand on a massive timber that supports the rafters above. Her finger tips explore it’s rough surface as she stares out the window, deep in thought. The broad timber dwarfs her delicate hand but not the emptiness in her eyes.


The concept of old people being lonely was first introduced to me by a girlfriend many years ago.

“When you’re old, after your sweetheart dies, you don’t get hugs and kisses anymore.”, she said.

Then she looked at me with eyes that expected an intelligent response. I was twenty-something and all I could offer was the truth, “I never thought about that.”

I bet many of those sitting around me have not been hugged in a while and their most recent kiss may also be their last.

A bright eyed blond looks directly at me and smiles as she strides past the window. I wake enough from my day dreaming to smile back. The rain has slowed but the mist still hugs the mountain. I should take advantage of the break in the weather and walk back to my car, it’s getting late and Safeway may close early tonight.

That old girlfriend knew what she was talking about. Despite their maturity and all they have survived, old people do get lonely. That girlfriend is on the other coast now, thousands of miles away. I have no doubt she’s giving Christmas hugs and kisses to all those around her.

In my thirties I got a little smarter and finally married that girlfriend and in a few days she’ll be back home. But because of what she told me in my twenties I never take a hug or kiss for granted, I know one day they will stop.

Categories: Travel, Washington, Writing

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

16 replies

  1. Have really enjoyed your entries since that girlfriend sent me the link! Look forward to spending time with both of you in April.

  2. I teared up reading this. Beautifully written. My friend and I were talking about spending time alone over the holidays, and how that differs from the loneliness you discuss in this post.

  3. Thank you. I want to give more hugs in 2016!

  4. This is a thoughtful, well-written piece, Tom. I understand how the mood can sometimes match the gray weather when your partner-in-life is away.
    Happy New Year to you and Sue. – Mike

  5. People can be lonely at any age, but it’s always sad to see. Sometimes, being alone is a good thing but that is do different than lonely. Very nice post.

  6. Beautiful! That thought about never getting hugs or kisses when you’re old brought tears to my eyes. Thank goodness you married that girlfriend. I love a happy ending.

    Wishing I could hug my dad again, thanking my lucky stars I hugged my mom a lot at the end.

  7. Hi Tom…what a sweet post. You really tuned in to the loneliness around you; in fact, you were missing Sue and it showed. It would be nice to figure how to avoid that….like living in group housing with others of like mind. I think about that often.

    We are moving forward with prep for selling our house in the spring. Scary but feels right. We should do a trip….how about biking from Itaska State Park (source of the Mississippi ) to the Gulf? 3000 miles and lots of cute towns. But this fall we will be in Australia and NZ.

    Happy New Year! Val and Phil

    Sent from my iPhone


    • Wow!!! That is very cool. You guys are really shaking it up. You’re an inspiration and a lot fun. Have a great 2016 and keep us up to date on your adventures. If you pass through Seattle or anywhere in NW give us a call and you are always welcome in our home. Happy New Year!

  8. I really enjoyed this profound post, Tom. Superbly written and with deep compassion. I hope your new year is filled with hugs and kisses. 🙂

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