Twenty years ago Mr. Hanna’s Christmas Party was just an idea me and my friend Jennifer came up with. I’m sure we were at the Elbow Room, I’m sure there was beer involved.
I’m sure the conversation went something like this:
Jennifer: Misssttteeerrr Hanna, you know what would be fun?
Mr. Hanna: No.
Me: We were thinking… (Mr. Hanna is already laughing and shaking his head at us) that it would be really fun if you had a Christmas Party.
Mr. Hanna: A Christmas Party?
Me & Jennifer: Yes!!!
Mr. Hanna: Why would I have a Christmas Party? Who would I invite?
Me & Jennifer: US!!!
Mr. Hanna: You two just want to come over and party at my house.
Me & Jennifer: SO??? And, yeah, we want to, it would be fun, think about it Misssttteerr Hanna, please!
Mr. Hanna: I’ll think about it…
Me & Jennifer: Oh My God! It’s going to be the best Christmas Party ever..
It was, it really was.
An annual tradition from that first conversation at the Elbow Room, to the last party Mr. Hanna had in 2013, it was something I looked forward to every year. The first year was crazy, I think Jennifer and I slept on his couch that year, actually, we may have done that more than once….
Mr. Hanna wouldn’t admit it the first year, but he had a lot of fun hosting the Christmas party. He would invite friends from school, his daughter Kendra, friends he knew from his insurance days, and there were always “newbies” every year. Someone only a few – or – none of us knew, that magically fit into the Christmas party group. Every year it seemed to get bigger, and more ridiculous.
Yes, ridiculous. Mr. Hanna, a sweetheart and a savage at the same time. A savage? Yes.. allow me to explain.
Everyone would arrive at the party around 6:30. Mr. Hanna had been cleaning and cooking and wrapping all day. The menu du jour was always:
- Shrimp cocktail
- Chicken Wings
- Veggie Tray
- Cheese & meat plate
- All the booze you wanted
Mr. Hanna would get us going, pouring drinks and chit chatting with everyone until it was time for the games. This is where the savage part comes in. Mr. Hanna would get us nice and toasty and have us participate in word games – like scrabble on paper. Forever a teacher he would pass out paper and pens to everyone and time us. I mean, have you done a word puzzle buzzed? It’s kinda hard. He would stand by his Christmas tree and snicker at us while we complained and tried to pass his first test of the night. Next, there would be darts, because who doesn’t want to throw darts at a board while drinking? It’s safe…
Then there were presents. Mr. Hanna always bought everyone a present. Nothing big, but it was something that he picked out just for that person. He loved watching us open them, standing there with his Budweiser Frog Mug that said “we could have been huge” every time he opened it to take a sip of his drink. Mr. Hanna insisted no gifts for him, I ignored it every year. He loved the Three Stooges, I got him a framed picture of them playing golf one year – he hung it with a few other golf things, somewhere he saw it every day. I hope it made him think of me.
Even though Mr. Hanna hadn’t had his Christmas party in a few years when he was here it was always possible. When he was in rehab a part of me believed he would beat cancer again, he had done it so many times before.
Knowing he’s gone, and that there will never be another Misssttteeerrr Hanna Christmas party breaks my heart. I know he wouldn’t want me to feel this way, he saw how broken I was after my Dad passed away, he was one of my best friends, I miss him terribly.
This weekend when I’m running around Indy I’ll be looking for you Mr. Hanna. In the sky, on the road, through the kindness of a stranger, or a random penny found on the ground. I’ll know you’re with me and you’re happy.