The Christmas Party over at SewCalGal's is in full swing, you all are invited, so I hope you'll stop in grab a cup of egg nog or hot cocoa, read some Christmas stories, traditions and meet the other guests.
So many of my Christmas memories are all wrapped up in this man.
I'd like you to meet Ray Albury, known to many of the people here as Santa Ray. Years before I met him, Ray heard of a family who were having a hard year, so he bought gifts for the children, some food and a Christmas tree and secretly delivered all of his goodies. The following year there were 8 families and of course it grew each year. Ray reached out to the community for help and "Ray's Kids" was born.
I met him when I was looking for something to teach my daughter about volunteering. We went with a small group and wrapped presents, my daughter's love of volunteering started and I met the man who truly changed my Christmas's forever.
We became such close friends and I became his "head elf" a title he bestowed on me with a lot of laughter. By Christmas Eve exhaustion was a way of life for me and then here come the elves, literally with bells on, they'd be over the top happy and singing, yes singing, it was no secret that the elves made me crazy and I was cranky.
Santa Ray and the elves would leave to deliver the presents and I would go to an annual party, phone in hand, ready to dash off for whatever Christmas emergency happened, there were lots.
My favorite memories:
Not elves :)
The year Ray was in the hospital and we started off the season from his hospital bed, the nurses would sneak us out to the roof so we could use our cell phones.
The wheelchair races in the hospital that same year, we brought a lot of joy and laughter to the hospital that year.
The story Ray told people about me being his long lost daughter (which would horrify my mother). He did that so the nurses could tell me his progress which they couldn't do if I wasn't family. The Albury's are one of the founding families here in the Keys and lots of people still think I'm an illegitimate Albury.
The Christmas after Hurricane Andrew when we helped almost 400 children, yes we are impressive.
The community wrapping parties which often were full of people we had helped, doing what they could to help others.
The Christmas (Ray's last) when we talked a man into playing Santa, he had an abusive childhood and hated Christmas, after meeting all the children and families he cried and thanked us, WE GAVE HIM CHRISTMAS.
The year Senator Graham spent his last work day delivering gifts with us, he was amazing, it wasn't about him it was about the families, no media was allowed, to protect the privacy of the families.
My family has had Christmas trees without decorations or just lights some years. One Christmas Eve, I came running in to change clothes and found the whole house decorated including the tree. I sat on the floor and cried.
My first Christmas without Ray, I could talk to about 3 families before I had to sit and cry, calm down and call more, the stories were so sad, people were so proud and all they would ask for was shoes. Shoes made me cry.
Still not elves :)
One more little story, we visited every family before they were on our list (greed happens). One house the children were home alone with a teenage sibling and the parents arrived drunk while we were leaving. I said to Ray "well we're not going to help them" and he said "don't you think those children have a bad enough life without us turning our backs on them?" Of course they made the list.
Christmas isn't about presents, but for the children it is, they don't understand about the economy or unemployment. Santa is magic and Christmas to me is about keeping the magic alive for the children.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE