When I was 14 my friend, Nancy (there’s an old school name you don’t hear much anymore) was dating an older boy named Johnny Murino.
He was a handsome, charming, 17 year old stoner who’d been in juvenile lock up twice.
I would never ever have been allowed to date a boy like Johnny but Nancy’s mom was not so protective.
Two days before Christmas my mom saw Johnny standing outside Nancy’s front door, smoking a cigarette. No one was home, still Johnny stayed by the door for almost an hour, until mom invited him to wait in our house.
I was thrilled and nervous when he accepted because he was bad and cool and 17. He sat in the kitchen while my mom fixed dinner. She was making stuffed bell peppers and convinced Johnny to try one for the first time…and he liked them. That Christmas mom made sure there was a package under the tree for Johnny.
For the next few months Johnny Murino was a regular guest in our kitchen. He would carry groceries in for my mom, sweep the porch, try new foods, smoke cigarettes and visit. Then Johnny and Nancy broke up, so mom and johnny kind of broke up too.
A year latter, right around Christmas mom was in a 7-11 Convenience Store. She looked up and three young thug looking boys, all in black hoodies, kind of burst through the door and she was absolutely certain they were about to rob the 7-11. She said she started instinctively backing up, tword the slurpie machine, until one guy looked over at her, and it was Johnny Murino. He smiled and said, “Hey Mrs. McDaniel, how have you been?” He gave mom a hug, then hurriedly picked up a pack of gum, dropped a dollar on the counter and quickly herded his boys out the door.
She watched them huddle up in the parking lot then they left in a beat up car with no license plate.
Mom always used this story to illustrate why it’s important to be nice to everyone, even those on a different path and with different priorities. And when she told the story of Johnny Murino she always finished it with, “and as I watching them pull out of the parking lot I thought ‘and Merry Christmas too all and to all a good night.”
Mom always had a flair for the dramatic.