A SHORT STORY ABOUT THE JOYS OF CHRISTMAS ~
(originally posted December 2013)
The people were surrounding me stepping on my foot, jabbing with their elbows, bumping me into other people. I was pushing back just to maintain my balance. There was so much noise my head was pounding. A squealing sound near the ceiling of the big room made my headache worse. Long lines, crying babies, noisy talkers, so many bodies pressed against me.
Why did I ever agree to go out shopping and make myself nervous and tired? Sure, she’s my best friend and her kids are normally fun and cuddly, but right now, I wish they were sleeping in their little beds at home. I thought it would be festive if Momma, Sabrina, my husband, Matt, and I met them at the mall for Santa pictures where he sits in the big chair surrounded by magic snow and more screaming kids.
Baby Bradley pulled on my coat asking, “What is that white stuff around Santa?”
It’s magic snow, Bradley,” I said as I smiled.
He broke away from his sister’s hand and laughed as he crawled around in the white stuff now covering his Christmas suit and matching hat. Children–the innocence of Christmas.
And that’s how it all started…with magic snow!
Momma said it would be a good day to get out and enjoy the season. Really! Well, I’m worried about her as well as myself. I would feel so bad if someone pushed her down and caused a broken bone.
My teenage daughter, Sabrina, with all sorts of tubes and ear muffs on her multi-pierced ears, is not listening to a word I yell at her. Of course she’s not because she hasn’t heard anything I’ve said since she was 13 when her aunt Elizabeth bought her those earphone things. I can tell from the rolling eyes—the only way she communicates with me for the past year—she wishes this “seasonal event” was over so she could meet her friends. I’ve learned to accept that all of us, as old people, are such lame companions.
My husband said he would just wait in the car and watch the rest of some ballgame on his phone sipping his café espresso .
“Well, of course, honey, that’s fine if you want,” I grimaced at him—and he smiled as if I just made a pass at him!
So much for thinking he would carry the packages. I looked back at him as the rest of us got out slowly watching for ice patches surrounding the van. Why can’t I be the one in the car with my Grande peppermint mocha latte? When do I get my Christmas wish?
Immediately I heard the shrieks of Bradley and his older sister running up and down the sidewalk. The kids were jumping up and down and waving their chubby mitten-covered hands beckoning us to join their fun.
As we entered the mall and I saw all the people, I remembered how horrible it could be shopping on Christmas Eve. If I survive this mob, I’ve still got to stop and get replacement bulbs for the tree lights. Got to go to four more stores for gift cards, and pick up the ingredients for my famous rum pumpkin pie. Rum? Maybe two bottles I’m thinking!
It’s coming back to me now how much I hate shopping on Christmas Eve.
In fact, I am so tired that if Christmas doesn’t hurry up and get here and gone, I may just see if Santa could use a new elf for next year—I hear it’s a year-long training in a far-away place!
Splat! Ouch! Ugh!
I’ve been attacked with something akin to a baseball bat! Oh, it’s just Baby Bradley and his bottle he’s swinging like a boomerang. The screeching sound in my ear is him laughing and squeaking.
My friend said,“Bradley, honey, don’t hit anyone with that.”
No problem, my friend, it’s not anyone—it’s only me!
A short time later, I got candy cane sticky kisses and hugs from Bradley and his sister. My friend and her two little ones left us to our shopping.
Where is my daughter? You’d think I could find her with all that electrical equipment on her head but I think she’s run away and left me in this colossal mess and disorderly crowd. Surely she knows if she retreats to the car with her dad, I’ll be left alone to fend for myself and Momma. Would she do that? In a heartbeat or a drumbeat or whatever her stethoscope-like wires hear when they are stuck in her ear.
Oh, no, where’s Momma! Did someone slam her to the floor and steal her huge purse. No, they couldn’t wrench it off her shoulder the way she ties that on…and they would be weighted down with its contents. But where is she?
“Oh, I’m so sorry ma’am – I didn’t mean to bump into you and step on your foot and elbow you and the little ones,” I said.
I apologized profusely to a woman and five children strung out like a “Hands Across America” exhibit. I really had done nothing to her but it sounded nicer if I apologized to them as they continued on through the crowd forming a bulldozer-like barricade.
Momma, Sabrina, come back and help me. I’m dropping the packages and a boy has his Game of Thrones-like sword stuck in my back and he’s jabbing me with it.
I raised my voice above that of the blaring loud-speaker crying, “Come back and help me!
After what seemed like hours of abuse and stomping and noise, I realized it was quiet and dark. Oh, no, I’ve blacked out and am dying! The crowd of people are all finally gone and debris is all around me. My packages are strewn about with their contents lying hither and yon.
Oh, no! My ribs hurt as I chuckled because draped over my feet are the Santa boxers that are supposed to be a private gift for my Naughty Santa husband. My purse—where’s my purse? Ouch…that must be it I’m lying on that’s punching me in the ribs. Well, at least no one took that—one good thing. The sign which had been hanging near the checkout line was across my body. I could still read it though:
“Last Mark Down Items For Christmas Eve Shoppers”
Now I remember… I’m in the midst of the Joys of Christmas
INSTALLMENT #1 TRAVELOGUE OF 2 SISTERS ROAD TRIP
Have you ever made so many U-turns you’re not sure if you are headed back to the beginning or on a completely different route?
That recently happened to me on a road trip. Best laid plans and all that! Had maps marked, turn-by-turn directions, GPS, and many other devices that should have made the traveling a little easier. But, you know, when you pass up that exit and you’re in the wrong lane, things fall apart right then.
And it doesn’t even have to be on a multi-lane interstate. It can be a highway junction in a small town that throws you off. Seems more and more junctions are being laid out to give an “easier” way around the town. Large or small, roads can get you mis-routed in an instant.
So after you try a couple of new perspectives on it and you’ve still not found your connection, you do the unthinkable: ASK FOR DIRECTIONS FROM A LOCAL. That doesn’t often turn out well even from the first statement when they begin:
You know where the old post office was? Well, you go down four or five or maybe six blocks and you turn by the old gas station. ‘course it’s closed down now and they’ve bulldozed it all down and widened the street there. I think it’s a flea market now or something.”
If I knew things like that and if I was from ‘round these parts’ I probably wouldn’t be asking for directions. Just then another voice chimes in:
“You know where old man Smith’s place is? It’s past that a bit…can’t miss it”
Oh, my, hasn’t that been helpful? You smile and return to the car and try to readjust your antennae…and, with a renewed spirit you start toward the old post office.
But I’ve learned in traveling (as in life) if you have to turn around and try again, something different will happen. It won’t be the same journey [even if you do see old man Smith’s place]…and you may still be lost. Why didn’t you ask them to draw you a map? But then why would their map be any better than all the ones you got from the travel agent, the state or the one you pulled up on your smart phone?
Oh, gosh, do you think that place we just passed was old man Smith’s!! I know the guy said ‘can’t miss it’ but I think we just did.
On one dreary afternoon when my sister and I realized we weren’t anywhere close to being able to tackle the up-coming city (because of an “alternate” road we’d taken in our approach), we made a major decision. We just threw all caution to the wind, tossed the state & city map into the back seat and braved the city one street at a time.
My comment was: You know our parents and grandparents traveled across this great United States in the 30s,40s & 50s with no map. Surely we can do it.
And we did. We found more things in that city than they’ve ever put on a tourist guide. We found beautiful scenery, expensive homes in a well-to-do suburb (even a Frank Lloyd Wright designed house). We located and identified six various kinds of art deco architecture within a 4-block area of downtown. We tasted that city’s grit to grime believing our new route through the run-down section would connect to another road. It did…just not the right road. When we photographed our last shot in the dying sunset, we found the right highway connect. At that moment we felt we had enjoyed that city more than any that could be on our trip.
If you missed the turns in your life, you’ve got some options:
- You can make a u-turn and head back looking at it from the other side
- You can analyze that if you “square it off” you’ll get right back where you were before (but remember…you were lost then, too)
- You can take the new directions from the locals and get a chance to see that old post office
- You can throw up your hands, toss the map out the window and wing it from there and see something else that wasn’t even on your list.
You can do any of these things…and none are really wrong decisions.
But, failing to try again can be the most unpleasant of all. You’ll never get on the right road if you don’t turn around; you’ll never get to see the old post office and you’ll miss the entire journey.
Be brave! U-turn now…go back and see where you missed that turn…go back and try it again! Remember the last time you missed a turn and you just kept going? Yes, you do remember how that turned out, don’t you? Make some decision…because indecision is the same as standing still.
You’ll never know what you’ll discover on “alternate” roads. Here’s a few things I would have missed if I’d followed the exact directions.
Solitary road found during a U-turn in TX
Frank Lloyd Wright designed house in Tulsa
Gates swinging open at Graceland
Monument to school desegregation in Little Rock
Rock of Ages Farm Barn Route 66 OK
Smallest portion of Route 66 (13 miles) in KS
Town of Santa Claus IN – decorated 365 days a year and lights turned on each night
Quiet road found during U-turn in TN
Metal from World Trade Center sculpture (ORNL)
Oak Ridge TN
Cumberland River in downtown Nashville
Directions are easier to see once you turn around!
I can’t guarantee you’ll find exactly what you are looking for with a U-turn or change in direction. I can guarantee that it’s different–and isn’t that what we are hoping when we’ve realized we made the wrong turn?
I looked into the sun, squinting to make out the road sign; As I U-turned to look from the other side, it was clear. Not clear that I ‘d found what I needed but clear I was lost. Sometimes, discovering you are lost is as good as knowing where you are. Make the journey; start the adventure; map it out; But when best laid plans come up short, make a new plan. Never too late to start a new journey on an old road.