Hard to know what to expect on Grace Street on a day like Christmas Eve.
The only thing I had going for me was that I hadn't gotten up until 11, so I wasn't walking until noonish, so I figured at least a few people would be out and about. Had I walked in the morning, I wouldn't have been so sure that that would have been the case.
And I would have been mistaken, at least at Sally Belle's Kitchen. The sign on the door said, "Open at 11. Numbers handed out prior." Good god, you need numbers to get your Sally Lunn bread and cheese wafers? Who knew?
Well, apparently everyone but me, or at least the long-time Richmonders knew. The place was abuzz with activity as I approached it. People were going in the door empty-handed and harried-looking as fast as others were coming out of the other door, arms laden with white boxes and bags.
I stopped and played doorman for a minute, partly to be helpful and partly to be nosey (imagine!). Everyone was friendly, many of them gratefully wishing me a Merry Christmas and everyone I asked was willing to tell me what they'd come in for.
Lemon chess pie was high on the list. Sally Belle's iconic potato salad got mentioned a lot. The pecan pie was popular. That Sally Lunn bread (which I don't even care for) and those cheese wafers, too. All the things that have made RVA Chrsitmas dinners what they are for decades.
A woman waiting at the bus stop wished me a Merry Christmas and asked if we were going to get the big snow she'd heard about (you know, because I look like a meteorologist). She was excited at the prospect, saying she couldn't remember a white Christmas in her lifetime.
Up near Meadow, a guy wished me a M.C. and asked if I'd been naughty or nice. Not sure where he might want to take that conversation, I just laughed and said that was someone else's decision to make. He chuckled and wished me luck with that.
Nobody was politically correct abut saying "Happy holidays" instead of M.C. until I was a block from home. A smiling man missing his two front teeth approached me and did a sweeping bow, saying "Happy holidays, miss!"
"Same to you," I said. He did a little dance step and looked at me saying, "I got the Christmas SPIRIT!"
That or some mid-morning nog.