The mother of childhood friends Andrew and Victor took the three of us to a performance of the Nutcracker at one of the fine arts theaters in downtown D.C. when I was 7 or 8. Mrs. Mealey loaded us into her huge blue sedan (Buick?) -- at least it seemed huge to me -- and drove us to the show, stopping by her school on the way. That was the first time I'd been in a public school building. I remember her classroom was much more colorful than the austere rooms at St. Benedict's where I went and there were no crucifixes or pictures of the Blessed Virgin on the walls. When we left her school we went to a cafeteria to eat before the show. I might have had a dollar in my pocket but I know she paid. The actual performance of the Nutcracker went by in a blur of color and wonder and menace; I remember vividly a trio of harlequins with hoops. Even though Andrew and Victor and I fought (literally) almost everyday, I really loved their mother and think of her around this time of year. Despite the fixation "grown ups" seem to have on making life complicated maybe it is just that simple -- be kind to people.