posted by Momo Fali on October 22, 2012

My dad had a friend named Squirrel.

Well, he wasn’t really a friend, but rather an acquaintance from the bar my dad went to after work sometimes. Squirrel was a slurring, drunk man, though probably not as much in real life as he is in my memory. In the far reaches of my mind he is the wobbly pharmacist from It’s a Wonderful Life, stumbling and spitting his words in my grandma’s kitchen one cold Christmas Eve.

I know for a fact that he stammered, because one of my cousins compared his speech to the lyrics of the Chaka Khan song playing every hour on the pop-radio station that year. Not the part where she croons, “I feeeeel for you,” but the part where Grandmaster Melle Mel raps, “Chaka, Chaka, Chaka Khan…” Squirrel could have probably been an 80’s star if he had only had the right management.

I was a young teenager when this odd, little man stood on the white, tiled floor next to the butcher block where the Christmas ham was perched. It was the same place where my grandma spent hours rolling out dough and cutting noodles by hand. She had no dishwasher, no air conditioning and no counter space, yet she never failed to have supper on the table. I have of all of those things and still don’t always make an evening meal.

But, it was never about what she didn’t have. What she did have, and what that house held, was immeasurable kindness and love. Squirrel, weaving inside the circle that my cousins and I had created around him, was there that Christmas Eve because he likely didn’t have anywhere else to go. My dad made sure that he wouldn’t be alone. Though, at the time, I saw this drunk man as uproarious entertainment, I see him now as a symbol of everything I’m proud of.

Sure, we probably handed him egg nog and rum when he didn’t really need it, but we also gave him warmth, food, and a rapt audience for his grand tales. We gave him a room to dry his boots, a place to laugh and feel part of a family, if only for an evening.

I can’t tell you what I got for Christmas that year. I don’t remember how many presents were under the tree or if my stocking was full. What I got was a fond memory and the sense that I need to give something back. I’m not talking about money, because I don’t have a lot of that. What I really want to do with my life is give people a place to dry their figurative boots.

But, first I have to get this Chaka Khan song out of my head.


  • Mama D

    When I was growing up overseas, we always had American sailors over for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. They were far from home and family and we had a family to share. I have many happy memories of those dinners and have welcomed strays to my holiday tables many times since!

  • cyndy

    My heart is all melty now.
    LOVE this post.

  • Vicki

    Lovely as usual.

  • Alexandra

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

    And a story meant to be shared.

    Thank you–this made my heart full.

  • tracey

    And now that song is in my head, too. Gracias.

  • Tara R.

    That is what Christmas is supposed to be all about. Lovely.

  • Angie [A Whole Lot of Nothing]

    So, the moral of this story is always have room at the table for your dad’s drunk friend?

    I approve this message.

  • Arnebya

    My parents didn’t have friends over often (drunk uncles, yes, but not friends that I can recall). I do, however, have the memory of my mom giving food to a neighbor. I asked her once how she knew they were hungry and she said she just did, that she never asked, never expected anything in return (and she thought conversing about it would be embarrassing). She just sometimes made extra food, took it over without a word, and left. I went with her a few of the first times and though the woman did start to protest, my mother would simply sit a pot on the counter, touch her shoulder, and leave.

    I hope all the Squirrels of the world have a place to go not only this holiday season, but all year round. Also, let me rock you Chaka Khan.

  • Shannon

    Such a beautiful message – that we all have kindness to give. It’s a great reminder that sometimes all people want is to be listened to and acknowledged. Thanks for sharing!

  • Elaine A.

    I so wish more humans would treat each other this way. This is a wonderful story to read as we approach the holiday season. THIS is what it should be about…

  • Joni

    Wow, what a great memory!!! When I think back to those wonderful holidays, it always seemed like there was a new face each year….our family is GOOD!!

  • meleahrebeccah

    Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww! This is only the sweetest story ever!!

  • Sherry Carr-Smith

    This is one of the best things about my Mom. She takes in every stray human who comes across her path. I can’t remember a time when some friend didn’t live with them for a few days…or even for a couple of decades.

  • Derek

    I remember squirrel, from the picadilly or ledo’s. I think he was one of those “fly town boys” our fathers grew up with. I too have great memories of Christmas eve parties at gram’s. Don’t remember too many presents but a lot of great memories.

  • wyngrrrl

    Love is found in so many forms. May we all be able to reach out to those who least expect it yet most need it. Thanks for remiding us all.

  • Laura in Little Rock

    My mom’s family ALWAYS got together for the holidays. We were always loud, happy and well-fed. You made me remember the rare Christmas that we got to spend with our only 2 male cousins and we assigned the older “5 golden rings” as a solo in the Twelve Days of Christmas as we drove, singing to somewhere. Love that memory. Now I have that song stuck in my head…

  • AlisonH

    So beautiful. Thank you.

  • Christopher Hayes

    This is my first time reading any of your lovely and as usual, a bit comical stories. I liked this one because it reminded me of my good old friend Joseph Canzani who was the president of the Columbus College of Art & Design. In his ripe old age of 92 he was invited to my moms house for Christmas Dinner, by me, to enjoy the evening with me and my family. He had one son who didn’t see him much. Only God knows why because Mr. Canzani was an AWESOME man! His granddaughter was a worthless drugie. I felt sorry for her. She might have been in jail this Christmas. I’m pretty sure. Anyways, he had nobody this Christmas and he excepted my invitation to come over. He enjoyed this time with us, as well as we did with him. I could write a nice, big long story about my three years taking care of him. Maybe I will. He was remarkable!

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