When I was about 3 years old, Santa (a.k.a. the Mayor at that time), lifted me on his knee and asked what I wanted for Christmas. Not knowing how to respond, I glanced over at the tree dripping in lead tinsel and an inventory of ornaments, spotting one that caught my eye. “A candy cane” I said emphatically. Santa blinked and nodded simultaneously with approval.
A few weeks later, there was a knock at the front door. A friend of my parents' stopped by unexpectedly. Mr. Bullard was a very tall, large man who had a terminal smile sculpted across his face. It was his most prominent feature that stood out opposite his deep blue eyes and balding head. He proceeded to sit down on the floor, “Indian style” and address me at my eye level. His strong arms moved from behind his back as he presented me with the biggest, giant candy cane any of us had ever seen. The candy cane was a colossus of twisted red and white confection no less than a yard long and an equal match for my height and weight! For a seemingly lengthy time, no words were spoken, just gasps and chuckles in ecstatic disbelief. There was much chatter about how to best consume it and how it would conceivably last a lifetime. The story and the memory behind his generous act have and will continue to last as long.
Mr. Bullard was a Father, a business owner, the founder of Habitat for Humanity a philanthropist by nature and, Mayor of Timberlake. I grew to learn that being the Mayor that year, Santa was able to make good on my Christmas wish. What I didn't understand at the time is that he had lost his wife of many, many years, just a couple of weeks before. In spite of his profound grief undoubtedly amplified by the holidays and his unique Mayoral duties, Mr. Bullard listened to a mere child and made a special point of fulfilling my modest request in the grandest and most thoughtful gesture . The real gift came realizing that years later. He had the largest heart of anyone of my Parent's many wonderful friends I was blessed to know. Just before he passed away, I stumbled upon the largest candy cane lawn ornament, that had his name written all over it. I missed what would be our last visit by just a day, but knew in my heart the connection we shared all those years that will last forever.