Visiting friends, dining out with his sister round out bachelor's Christmas

December 25, 1992|By Wayne Hardin | Wayne Hardin,Staff Writer

Christmas for Bill Walker changed in 1984, when his mother died in April and his older brother died in November.

Although he is a lifelong bachelor, Mr. Walker's Christmas traditions always were centered on family; usually he and his mother would have dinner at the home of his big brother and sister-in-law, Mason and Sara Belle Walker, or vice versa.

"After my mother and brother died, my sister-in-law and I decided neither wanted to do a dinner for Christmas," says the 64-year-old. "We decided to eat out on Christmas Day. But it was hard to find a place open.

"We ate at Danny's the first time. Since then, we've eaten at some of the hotels like Stouffer's or Harbor Court. One year, we took a bus tour to Buckeystown and ate at a bed-and-breakfast."

Mr. Walker, a retired federal government employee, lives in a blue frame house with black shutters just off U.S. 1 in the Poplar Grove community of rural north Harford County. A 50-foot holly tree, once a seedling that had come home from Edgewood Arsenal in his father's lunch box, stands in the yard in front of the house.

"I don't plan a Christmas tree this year," Mr. Walker says in the living room of the house where he was born and his mother, Emma Day Walker, died at age 92. His white hair is combed toward the front and he's wearing a blue pullover with a Jackson Station Antiques logo, jeans and white sneakers.

Even minus a regular Christmas tree, the room has several seasonal touches -- a 2-foot pine cone yule tree, a small terra cotta Nativity scene, a full-mantel arrangement of yew, spruce, cedar and holly with a poinsettia in the middle, a red Santa Claus hat hanging on a rocker. A "Bah Humbug" welcome mat lies just outside the side door.

He retired from Aberdeen Proving Ground's ordnance school in 1988 and these days works in a hospice relieving care-givers, as a driver for Meals on Wheels and as a teacher of English, mostly to spouses of military personnel, in a program at the proving ground.

His traditional Christmas starts Christmas Eve, which means that last night he had dinner with old friends Dick and Anne Clark and family at their home north of Bel Air. Then, he went to the 11 p.m. Christmas Eve services at Dublin United Methodist Church.

Today, he intends to spend the morning visiting cousins, maybe dropping off a poinsettia or two from the services, and to end the day with an evening visit to more friends, Lee and Barbara Rudolph in Bel Air, and exchange small gifts.

In the afternoon, Mr. Walker will leave the house where he was born and drive to Baltimore to pick up Sara Walker and head off to the restaurant of their choice, either Stouffer's Windows at Harborplace or Pier 500 on Key Highway.

"Eating out on Christmas was a culture shock at first," he says. "Then, it became kind of neat. You finish dinner, leave the dishes on the table and walk out. No dishes and pots and pans to wash. You're home free. The only thing is, you don't get any leftovers."

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