A Memorable Christmas
It was a bone chilling cold December night. The dual finned white 1959 Buick Electra sliced through the cool night air at a steady pace putting one mile behind another on its’ way to the security of Grandpa’s house. The little boy was a mere ten years old as he pressed his seeking face against the side glass, just knowing he would see Santa’s sleigh streaking across the clear star filled winter sky.
This trip and Christmas would be different from all the others the young lad had experienced or ever would. As Indiana highways changed into Kentucky roads and were about to be transformed into Tennessee roads something strange happened. The smooth running big Buick ironclad began to jerk and shake. The little boy in the back seat didn’t know what was happening, but the conversation drifting over the front seat from his parents alarmed and worried him. Suddenly, the happy feeling inside the car settled into a fog of uncertainty and worry.
Maybe his father had been misled in the deal he’d made to purchase the car only days before the big trip. Maybe the car odometer had been rolled back and the car had many more miles on it than his father had been led to believe. Either way, something was definitely wrong.
As the car began to slow down, it became apparent that the family would never make it to Grandpa’s house that night. The night felt eerie as the big white Buick, struggled to stay alive. It was soon drawn to a red neon vacancy sign of a small out of the way motel. This would be the first night the little boy had ever spent in a motel. Surrounded by snow and the sting of the cold night air, they made their way into the hotel room. The room was dark and cold. It would take several minutes for the room to warm before quilts and coats could be unwrapped and removed.
The little boy couldn’t fully comprehend all that was happening. He was in a strange cold place and his parents seemed very worried. It would be many years before he came to appreciate all that had taken place on that scary night.
It seemed like only a few minutes when the darkness was driven from the room by sharp piercing rays of bright sunshine peeking through the folds of the early 50s era curtains. Up and atom! It only took a few minutes to dress and repack the car. Somehow things felt better in the sunlight.
As the family waited patiently at the service station for the mechanic to arrive, they seemed a little on edge. What was wrong with the car? Could it be fixed? How expensive will it be to repair? Is there a chance they will not make it to grandpa’s house and have to head back home? These questions and others desperately needed answers. A couple of hours passed; the family waited in the warm lobby. The giant garage door rumbled, folded into sections and disappeared. The broad tail fins of the white ironclad moved backward through the open garage bay. The mechanic’s magic hands had repaired the fuel pump problem and brought the big Buick back to life.
Like a jumbo jet on the tarmac, the big Buick was fueled up, warmed up and ready to go; but in which direction, back home or on to Grandpa’s? Things were quiet as dad paused behind the steering wheel. He’d been out of work due to the occasional “lay-offs” which came with employment in the auto industry. Money was “tight” and the unexpected car trouble had left the family in real trouble. After a long pause, dad indicated that the family should not take any chances by going on and must return home. The little boy’s heart sank. None of grandpa’s stick candy. None of Mami’s chocolate gravy. No big Christmas dinner. This Christmas would be so different. This also meant that the little boy probably wouldn’t receive the one thing he wanted most for Christmas.
The whole episode had apparently affected the parents as well. Not a sound was heard as the car moved out of the parking lot and down the highway. Suddenly the silence was broken again with dad’s words; “I’ve turned the wrong way, well I guess we might just as well head on to Tennessee.” With the passing flash of each white line zipping by the car, the deep sad sinking feeling was now being replaced with anticipation and joy. The fear and anxiety generated by concerned parents now gave way to a sense of calmness. The matter had been decided. Now on to grandpa’s house and building more wonderful Christmas memories.
Oh by the way, the little boy did get what he most wanted for Christmas. Earlier in the year, although he was only in the 5th grade, he’d made his elementary school basketball team. It was Christmas morning. He awoke early after sleeping on the couch near the fireplace in the front room of his Grandpa Harris’ house. Santa had somehow made it down the flame filled fireplace without getting burned and left a bundle of packages under the Christmas tree. There it was, a package with the little boy’s name on it. Could it be? The little boy was so excited. He could hardly wait to open it. Dad had been out of work and money was short so he wasn’t sure if he’d get what he’d ask for. He quickly tore the wrapping paper from the package and there they were. Two kid sized basketball knee-pads. Bet you thought it would be something bigger and more exciting.
Every Christmas is special. Many have come and gone since that snowy cold night in KY many years ago. The little boy grew up, married, had two children of his own and has been blessed with 5 wonderful grandchildren. Now Marissa, Mason, Claire, Lauren and Rachel come to grandpa’s house every Christmas day (they also let their parents come along). They eat a big Christmas meal at Pawpaw and Mimi’s table, hear Pawpaw read the story of Christ’s birth from the Bible, hear their parents thank God for the many blessings of the past year and spend time in prayer thanking God for all His blessings. Pawpaw hands out gifts from under the Christmas tree and the “special stockings” filled with “special stuff” which is one of the final highlights of the day. Hopefully Christmas traditions and memories will be passed on and enjoyed by the grandchildren’s grandchildren.