The car air was now a stale mix of daddy and child toots, Mc Donald’s stale French fries from lunch, and a slight aroma of vomit as we neared our sixth hour of driving Highway 5 from Los Angeles to the Bay Area. We were having Christmas at Grandma’s but the excitement had dimmed around Harris Ranch Area when we had to distract one of our young passengers who up-chucks when he smells cow manure. By the way the distraction rarely works! And once he does it becomes a chain reaction.
We were on our fourth Disney video and nearing the turn off to Highway 680 when our car jerked weird, pulled to the left and began to swivel and shake pretty hard. My husband didn’t curse out loud but I heard him whisper something and luckily we were in the right lane for a pretty easy pull over. He got out and held on tight as the fury of 70 miles per hour traffic tried to grab and take him along to their own destinations. He walked back to see the flat tire now resting on the rim.
It was dark. The San Francisco fog had already moved in for the night. It was years before people used cell phones. And we were fifteen minutes from our destination with five children very done with driving. There were secret Santa gifts, Christmas presents, diapers, suit cases, food stuffed in every corner and now we were stopped dead and knew we would have to unload. We both gave each other that “you’ve got to be kidding” look then got out and began to unload the back of the van to find the spare.
I did the unpardonable sin by asking “Have you ever changed a flat tire before?” But that thought poofed when drivers began to honk seeing wrapped Christmas presents strewn in the dead grass next to the Highway spotlighted with their mocking head lights. It was so infuriating! We were good at not raising our fingers or screaming out at each honk that held each time as the car swept by…’Hhhhhuuuunnnnkkkk!’
But we’d hit our limit. It was best to leave my husband alone with the jack, and pour substitute of a tire that was supposed to carry us the rest of the way. “Should we pray on it?” I asked him, before I got back in the car. At least there was a tire there, right?
The children wanted out. I tried to offer more fishy crackers and fruit roll ups which had worked as fun treats on hour two but were not doing the trick. Legs were hitting the seats, tears, whining, and that was just from me…
The tire got changed and the back of the van was no longer perfect puzzle packed like we praise when my husband completes the task in the beginning. We all held presents on our laps for the last lap. I wish I could say the story ended with some Christmas angel coming to our rescue, scooping us up and flying us to our destination or bringing hot chocolate and singing but people just honked and laughed in their own warm cars as they sped past.
We haven’t really laughed about this experience yet and it has been years.
Not all Christmas stories are happy-ever-afters. In fact some feel so sickening sweet we get tired of hearing as if we ate a full chocolate cake and now feel sick.
But I believe we blame Christmas sometimes, when we aren’t enjoying it.
It seems the world is having so much fun all around us and we are not included or we feel so miserable we don’t want to be included.
But Christmas is not the problem it is really the solution to what we need in those not so funny times. You see Christmas spirit is really a commodity that our spirits and souls desperately need and I believe it is THE emotional fill up of our souls that we ration all year until it comes again.
We need it.
Because what I have realized is that all people everywhere are similar.
And the real Christmas spirit is only based on one word; LOVE.
We all need it.
We all want it.
And we all feel good when we are around it.
And that is what Christmas is trying to do.
God gave His son out of LOVE and I think we want God to stretch his arms around us individually and around all human kind and love us in this moment.
And Christmas is trying its best to do just that…
So Fill up!
WE NEED A LITTLE CHRISTMAS
Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now
For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet
Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
It hasn’t snowed a single flurry
But Santa, dear, we’re in a hurry
So climb down the chimney
Turn on the brightest string of light I’ve ever seen
Slice up the fruitcake
It’s time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough
For I’ve grown a little leaner
Grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder
Grown a little older
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder
I need a little Christmas now
Broadway musical, Mame
Lyrics by: Jerry Herman