Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas in Ann Arbor

Christmas happens, whether we are ready or not.

Kind of like life. Kind of like weather.

One holiday season when we were fairly young...I was maybe in 3rd grade, meaning that my youngest sister was in kindergarten...the family went on a short trip just before Christmas. Some sort of work-related trip for Dad, I think. It was just supposed to be overnight, from Cleveland, OH to somewhere in Michigan.

Alas, weather happened, whether we were ready or not. And so Christmas Eve found my parents checking three confused, cranky kids into a motel room in Ann Arbor, MI, in the midst of an unexpected blizzard (not sure they had invented weather radar yet in the mid-60's...pocket calculators were still some years off, and e-mail probably hadn’t even been imagined).

HOW WILL SANTA FIND US? OUR STOCKINGS ARE AT HOME! You can imagine the wailing, gnashing of teeth, pleading and placating of parents....

"Santa" was pretty concerned, all right. All "Santa’s" best-laid plans were hidden in a closet hundreds of miles away, and where are those pesky magical reindeer when you need them most? Rudolph was good in fog, but what about a blinding blizzard?

This was the era before convenience stores, let alone Walmart/Walgreens/supermarkets open 24 hours a day. AND it was Christmas Eve. All the stores had sensibly closed early, so that families could be together. AND whatever might otherwise have been open was closed due to weather.

My ever-resourceful parents did their best. Christmas morning dawned on knee socks from our scant luggage, hung along the motel room dresser. They were filled with whatever could be scrounged from the motel vending machines, front desk, under the car seat, anywhere. Just so there was something there on Christmas morning. Under the circumstances, I don’t think my sisters and I really blamed Santa for not putting on his usual (fairly modest and practical) show.

The real Christmas story here is that I don’t even remember the ordeal personally, though I’m sure it was traumatic for all of us at the time. This account is fictionalized from brief recounts told by my parents on rare occasions. Life, the universe, and everything go on, even when it feels like the end of the world to us at the moment. The winds of time send the sands of a million everyday moments to submerge that one horrible moment in vast shifting dunes. It might by chance be seen again, briefly, now and then, but only as a tiny part of a vast landscape.

In the words of Julian of Norwich,

And all will be well
And all will be well
And all manner of things will be well.

And isn’t that the real message of Christmas, anyway?

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