Mr. Rudd always wore a red cardigan sweater when we caroled to his house at Christmas time. His house smelled like dust and shower steam. He did not seem to mind as six kids of various sizes crowded inside his small home with two parent’s arms full of goodies, dinner, and small gifts. Mr. Rudd taught my brother’s how to play the clarinet and trumpet. He always made them play when we visited. I loved to watch one brother suck on a reed while he connected the pieces of his clarinet together. He never let me taste it but I bet it tasted good. The other would wipe out the horn part of the trumpet because it would get full of spit. That was pretty cool. I was positive Mr. Rudd did not have good hearing because he would have my brothers play for us and he would tell my parents how well the boys were progressing, when they were really very horrible. They squeaked and honked a tuneless rendition of some Christmas carol that no one could make out. Finally Mr. Rudd would put a read in his mouth, put his clarinet parts together, and then play with them and then we would recognize the tune.
Mr. Rudd did not have a Christmas tree inside his house. There wasn’t much of anything fun to look at for a seven year old except for some book shelves and a few photos. We would stay and listen to Mr. Rudd talk about when he was in the army. We would sing songs and eat soda crackers. When we would get up to leave Mr. Rudd would walk us all the way outside and even wait for us to get in our car. Then as we would drive away he would stand in the middle of the street and wave. I would watch from the back of the station wagon and he would wave and wave and wave until he got smaller and smaller and smaller. It made me feel like I wanted to cry.
We went to visit Mr. Rudd only a few more Christmases. My brother’s became interested in something else. Those Christmas’s we would go I would close my eyes when we drove away from his house, but I always had to peek to see if he was still waving. And there he would be in his red cardigan, standing in the middle of the street until he disappeared out of sight. I wished my dad would drive back and pick up Mr. Rudd and have him come live at our house so we never had to watch him wave good-bye to us and then walk inside his dark house and eat soda crackers all alone.