This morning I was about to put a CD in the car stereo when a song came on the radio that made me pause and grin. It was Bruce Springsteen singing “Santa Clause is Coming to Town,” and I smiled because the song reminded me of Lora.
Lora was a humor editor at the old Gibson Greetings when I worked there as a writer. She was a few years older than me (mid-40s at the time, I think), short and pleasantly round, with a face like a Scandinavian Christmas elf.
Lora was a character in a lot of ways, but what I loved in particular was her annual Christmas tradition. Lora listened to WEBN, one of our local rock stations, on headphones at her desk as she read humor card submissions. There came a time each November or December when Lora heard Springsteen’s Santa song for the first time that year. At that point she would don a braided, stuffed fabric door wreath like a turban and go dancing through the editorial department, announcing to everyone that the Christmas season had officially begun!
The thick, padded wreath made her look like one of the magi in a headdress, which wasn’t such a bad holiday image, either. Once, we were going down to the cafeteria for something, and Lora decided to wear her wreath. It was disconcerting how few people saw any humor in it. In fact, dour souls in the hallways actually scowled at her. Lora didn’t really seem to care.
Lora passed away about ten years ago. She’d been let go in one of the massive layoffs that struck Gibson in the 90s, and she never really recovered. She stagnated at home, smoking and eating too much of all the wrong foods (she had severe diabetes). She succumbed on the operating table during heart surgery. She’d been gone from Gibson a few years by that time, but the loss was felt and lamented.
I’m not certain, but I think she didn’t take her stuffed Christmas wreath with her when she was let go. I always wondered what became of it. It doesn’t matter. Whenever I hear The Boss’s gritty version of “Santa Clause is Coming to Town,” I see Lora dancing again. She’s still short and plump, but she’s lighter on her feet than she ever was as she strutted through the maze of cubicles. Her crown is still the wreath of stuffed, braided calico, but she shimmers as if she were crowned with The Star and the gold and jewels of the Wise Men who followed it.
Hey, Lora! I guess the Christmas season officially began this morning.